Tuesday, June 16, 2015
I was fifteen years old when my mom first gave me a copy of Passion & Purity. I sat in a lawn chair in our backyard and almost read it straight through until I was drenched in sweat and the morning sun had turned into a blazing afternoon.
I couldn’t put it down.
In the coming years I devoured her writings. Among many of the things that impacted me was when she spoke about the importance of having spiritual heroes. “Young men and women don’t have spiritual heroes anymore, but they need to” she said in one of her books. I don’t remember which one, but that’s just it. I never needed to because her words stuck with me when a lot of other things I read were soon forgotten.
And from that first day in my parents’ backyard, she became one of mine.
Mrs. Elliot (this is what I call her) was not the “feel good, tell you what you want to hear” type, at least from her writings. She spoke the truth forthrightly, yet not without love. I never had the privilege to encounter the genuineness of her smile, but I know she loved young women. Her love for my generation poured forth from her writings. And I felt it. Over and over again.
Outside of my mother, it was Mrs. Elliot who helped me understand the importance of living for Christ rather than living for the hope of a future husband, or anything else for that matter. She helped me gain a framework for what dating could look like. She unknowingly counseled me through a break-up, as well as steered me away from romanticizing fantastical relationships, “If he hasn’t said he’s interested in you then don’t imagine he is,” or something to that effect. She helped me recognize that the attractiveness of a godly man lies within and how to treasure it in my now husband.
It was Mrs. Elliot who reminded me often that womanhood is a beautiful and strong thing when lived out in the beauty of God’s design. In a culture that, even then, was blurring the distinctions between manhood and womanhood, she never wavered. She stuck to what the Bible says.
I have often thought of her words when changing diapers or completing mundane tasks around the house. “The life of faith is lived one day at a time.”
She has rebuked and encouraged my heart during hard days. Whether it was when my husband was deployed in the Marine Corps, or the journey of seminary when all I could see were the obstacles. “The secret is Christ in me not a different set of circumstances.” She called me out over and over again. Not to despair, but to fix my eyes heavenward.
When our baby in my womb died, Mrs. Elliot’s words pointed me to Christ when the pain was most severe. “A tiny treasure in heaven,” she said.
And that’s just the thing. She was always pointing me to heaven. High school, college, singleness, marriage, mothering, in all of my seasons so far she has encouraged me to look up.
I think I speak for so many young women when I say I lost a mentor yesterday. A grandmother figure in my life. A spiritual mother. A true Titus 2 woman. And as Mrs. Elliot said of Amy Carmichael, “She showed me the shape of godliness.”
I’m sad but I am rejoicing for Mrs. Elliot because she is with the One who she faithfully pointed me to all along. And I am incredibly grateful to be one of countless women who is looking more longingly at heaven because of her.
Even though I never had the privilege of meeting her in this life, it struck me today that I still have what I’ve always had. A stack of books in which she faithfully points me to the True Book.
And for that she has and always will be in the seasons to come, one of my spiritual heroes.
Thank you, Mrs. Elliot.
GraceAnna Castleberry is a wife, mother, and worker at home. She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband Grant, who is pursuing a Ph.D. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow her on Twitter @gacastleberry.
You, too, can help support the ministry of CBMW. We are a non-profit organization that is fully-funded by individual gifts and ministry partnerships. Your contribution will go directly toward the production of more gospel-centered, church-equipping resources.