In this chapter Elisabeth follows Jim to Ecuador as a missionary. She and Jim professes their love for each other in this same chapter. I will point out that this is at least four years into the time that they have been in a relationship with each other. Though neither one of them would call it that. As they were waiting on g-d to move forward in their relationship.
Elisabeth had previously mentioned not expressing her emotions. She said this was because she didn’t want to override what g-d wanted for her and Jim. She felt that expressing her desires would put her own wants and feeling above g-d’s plan.
This avoidance of the topic of love was assimilated into my own life. I felt that declaring love to another person was a very serious thing. I also felt that I need to have some sign that g-d okayed a relationship before I was willing to commit to vocalizing romantic love for someone. This put a lot of unnecessary stress on moving forward in a relationship even in small ways like saying “I love you.”
Moving on from my own life and back to the book.
After this discussion about expressing mutual feelings of love towards each other, Elisabeth then moves back to the same old theme, obedience and service to g-d.
“Obedience involves for us, not physical suffering, perhaps, not social ostracism as it has for some, but this warring with worries and regrets, the bringing into captivity our thoughts. We had planted (in our integrity) the banner of our trust in God. The consequences are His responsibility.” P156-157
This is the passage he is referencing.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.2 Corinthians 10:3-6
This brings the idea that we can control every part of our thoughts taming our very inner being. This is a familiar theme with other books I have read on purity. That our minds need to be fully under our control and any “lustful thoughts” need to be erased. I fairly recently read the book Dateable and it had a section on this topic. It discussed how to curb your “lustful” thoughts. That particular book suggested making the thought feel so horrible that you would never cross that line. Literally conditioning yourself to avoid “sin.” I’ll quote it below.
“When you do these steps, make the good seem so good and the bad so bad that you have no other options. You have to stop lying. When you read these, your mind knows that changing is the only thing you can do, because if you don’t your life will be messed up. The more you read it the more you will be sold on that fact.”Datable
This is personally difficult for me to write about. As this particular ideology caused me a lot of harm. For myself I took “sin” very seriously, and any thought that I had towards “lust” I felt was sinful. I had been told that any thought towards sex or sexuality was a sinful thing. These thoughts should only be reserved for your wife / husband, or so I was told.
I was unable to control my thoughts, and I felt so much shame for my “sin.” I would repeatedly ask g-d for forgiveness and strength to fight “against temptation,” but I would “give in” again and have a sexual thought. The shame became overwhelming. And I honestly I still struggle with the idea of any sexual thought being shameful.
Elisabeth jumps back to the idea of denying self for g-d. She talks a lot about letting go in this chapter. Specifically she and Jim separate again for several months. They are both on the missions field in Ecuador but in separate areas of the country. Both Jim and Elisabeth see this as g-d’s will and a way for them to grow spiritually.
“it is easy to make a mistake here. ‘If God gave it to me,’ we say, ‘It’s mine. I can do what I want with it.’ No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of – if we want to find our true selves, if we want real Life, if our hearts are set on glory.” p160
“Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the “loss” of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible will the losses seem.” p160
Nothing is truly yours. It is all g-d’s, and we need to be willing to “give it back” to him. As everything in a Christian’s life is viewed as coming from g-d. Everything belongs to him, your life, money, time, and belonging are all g-d’s.
The issue I have with this teaching is that self worth is completely disregarded. G-d owns you and everything that you ever posses. It doesn’t matter if you worked hard for it – per the evangelical church it still belongs to g-d. Your time, talents, money, etc. are all g-d’s.
A Christian is portrayed as being a person that needs to “die to self.” This means giving up all of your selfishness and desires. God is suppose to be given full control of all of these things. Full control of all, everything you are and want to be, belongs to g-d. According to the church, g-d should be given complete control of your life. It doesn’t matter what you want. It only matters what g-d wants.
“The acorn does what it was made to do, without pestering its Maker with questions about when and how and why. We who have been given an intelligence and a will and a whole range of wants that can be set against the divine Pattern for Good are asked to believe Him. We are given the chance to trust Him when He says to us, ‘…If any man will let himself be lost for my sake, he will find his true self.'” p161-162
One of the major things that jumps out to me in this chapter is Elisabeth’s commentary after Jim is unable to visit her. Jim implies in a letter that he is planning to propose in several weeks then fails to show up at the time he stated. Elisabeth states that this was because he was placing importance on his missions work and service to g-d higher than his relationship with her.
She says she was disappointed initially and wished he could have made the meeting. But she later remarks that this was a failing on her part and she should have seen that Jim’s heart was in the right place, that he always put g-d first. Elisabeth states that when g-d is placed as first we can always trust that g-d knows best, in this case further waiting for engagement.
This fits with the rest of the book so her conclusion shouldn’t have surprised me. G-d is always first. No matter how much pain that will cause, god will always be placed as the most important thing.
I do believe the average person would find some red flags in this particular passage. As Jim clearly indicates he will always put his relationships secondary to his service to g-d. I know in this book it is portrayed as a positive thing, but I’ve personally seen how this level of “devotion” can tear a family apart. When an individual is willing to put their church or g-d above their family it can lead to the family always getting secondary treatment and suffering because of that.
For this being a book on romance the author does not certainly dwell on the romantic aspects much. In this chapter Jim proposes to Elisabeth, and this interaction only gets one paragraph. Jim did kiss Elisabeth the first time at this proposal. The last part I have to question as earlier in the book she seemed to indicate that kissing would cause lustful thoughts and they had decided to avoid it. She however does not address the kiss or even really the proposal in this chapter.
Apparently though it is now acceptable for Jim to compliment her sexually now, and even fantasize about sex. He writes the following letter to Elisabeth.
“Oh, to be able to take you there, darling, and do as I have dreamed of doing with those clothes of yours, and really feel the clean flesh of your beautiful long legs against the broadness of my own. Thunder of Deep Heaven! What gasping bliss that would be tonight. But it will wait for us, and be, as you’ve said, ‘perfect’ when we arrive there. I long to fondle you tonight, Betts, and whipper that I love you, because I am now fanatically your Jim.” p170
It’s extremely jarring to go from her complete sexual abstinence and avoidance of anything that would even remotely be considered sexual stimulation to this. She also really doesn’t explain this well either. Do the rules now change because of their engagement? In his letter Jim states he has to wait to fulfil these sexual desires till they marry, but nothing further is mention on the topic.
Considering the emphasis placed on purity earlier in the book, I just have a hard time understanding this. And I wish she would try to explain her line of reasoning as to why they now have this new found freedom to correspond and dream about sex. What part of engagement allows for further “temptation?” I will give the author that she clearly marks sex off limits still (which is consistent with past writings), but other past “rules” are no longer followed.
I need to point out this dumpster fire of a section as well.
“Jim went on to tell of a conversation with an Ecuadorian friend who had made a girl pregnant. The willingness of the girl fooled him into thinking all would be well. He had then been framed by her parents, arrested, and forced to marry her. ‘Such are most of the marriages in my country,’ was the friend’s comment.
‘What robbery they must feel, if not shame, at the first intercourse after the wedding under such circumstances. May God preserve us for His time. How Juan could esteem a woman like that I don’t know. How grateful I am to God that I am not dealing with the type! Praise, praise for thee, lover. Thou art all God planned for me, and I exult in His design!'” p170-171
There are a couple things I wish to point out. “The willingness of the girl fooled him.” Why is the woman presented as the trickster? And is this implying “all would be well” meant that he wouldn’t have any obligations to his child? I just hate the whole idea. That she tempted him into sex, framed him, and forced him to marry her.
And why is this presented as they only main story so far of someone having sex outside of wedlock? This story is highly unrealistic, and although sex does carry a risk of pregnancy (PIV sex at least) sex does not always have to equal a pregnancy. Nor should anyone be forced to marry for any reason; it should be a voluntary thing by both parties involved.
And the statement that Jim is thankful that he isn’t like this just reads as pure arrogance. He’s bragging about how the way he chose is so much better. And how g-d’s ways are always best.
The previous statement in the quote also add to this mentality. How the indigenous couple must feel shame and guilt when they have sex together after they marry. He’s projecting his feelings about what is right / wrong and when people should feel shame onto this couple. Also radiating arrogance with the implication that his way will be better or will not cause shame.
Conclusion and Concluding Statements
I think I will close this section off here. The next post for this series will probably be the last as there are only about three chapters left. I plan to write about those and then write a conclusion for my thoughts on the book.
To me this whole section shows arrogance. Elisabeth talks for a long period of how this abstinence and separation are causing suffering, but how she and Jim did it through g-d’s help. She also speaks of how if you just give it all up to g-d he will take control, surrender everything to him fully. G-d’s place is always better than anything you could want, and how g-d will lead you relationship.
To be blunt I see very little of g-d’s leading in these chapters or anywhere in the book so far. What is credited to g-d’s direction seems very much like Jim making a decision and crediting it to g-d. He is the one making these ridiculous choices that push Elisabeth and him apart, not a divine being providing direction.
A further criticism is that in my opinion they seem to ignore their own rules at times. I think this just highlights how when people try to fully control and suppress their own sexuality it tends to come out regardless in other ways. They may have been “physically pure,” but Jim makes it certainly clear what he’s thinking and wanting to do. Why continue to suppress these natural desires? They both clearly note that this is causing them anguish.
I know that they would argue that “suffering” for g-d is a good thing. And quite possibly say that “it will be worth the wait.” As I often heard in regards to waiting to have sex until you are married. But I fail to see how this is a beneficial thing for anyone.