I have been pulling quotes from this book, Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, to a single friend today and pulling it off the shelf for the first time in a while.
For those of you who don’t know who she is, Elisabeth is the famous wife of missionary Jim Elliot who was killed in the amazon river basin by the indigenous people he was called to serve. She is a speaker and author, and to me is and always has been a seeker and finder of Truth with a capital T.
Though she is not a Catholic writer, she is a Catholic thinker as evidenced by her work. From what I understand of her personal life, her brother has converted to the Catholic faith. From what I read that she has written, she writes the truths of the Catholic faith. Because she is revered and well known by non Catholic Christians as a very holy and faithful woman, it would cause a ruckus if she were to convert. Whether or not that is her reasoning for NOT converting is honestly none of our business. All I know is that both protestants and Catholics will LOVE her books. Kind of like a female CS Lewis… exhibiting three of the four marks of the True Church: One, Holy, Catholic… and lacking the “Apostolic.”
This particular book is one I would give to any young woman, about dating and preparation for marriage, and the meaning of womanhood. It makes me want to cry just knowing how much wisdom there was in here that I doubted as a single person, and knowing how to the degree that I followed its advice, I received such a blessing in my marriage. If I knew then what I know now! My dear friend Liza gave this book to me when I was first learning what it means to allow Jesus to be Lord of ALL my life. Like most young women, I was pre-occupied with boys, and wanted nothing more than to know with certainty what my future held. Having grown up in the world, I had absolutely no sense of myself as a woman, only shreds and remnants that modern, anti-woman feminism hadn’t yet completely destroyed. I had never really considered words like “meek” and “quiet” and “modest” in relation to my personhood, and it was very hard to peel the layers of that onion. So hard in fact, that though I loved and respected Liza very much and believed in the picture of the spirit-filled life she was painting because I saw the fruit of it in her own life, I struggled to understand and apply the things she was teaching me because they were so different and so… HARD. Of course,. the other way was hard too. I wasn’t getting anywhere, and I wasn’t happy. But I wasn’t weird, either, because I was doing what everyone else was doing to some degree. Now that I had this book in my hands it was like God calling me to stand apart from everyone and watch and trust. I was afraid. But I was intregued. I went through three or four copies of this book. The first one I was given I shredded in a fit of anger. The second, I threw out.
One day, in despair and knowing that I had worn out any possible chance of success at this “love thing,” despite lots of success at finding interested men– at least for a while–I marched over to the bookstore and picked up a new copy. And I tore through it from cover to cover.
I left for the Army determined to apply every principle I had read. I came back married. God’s way works. It was a hard marriage in the beginning, and applying the things I had learned in the book helped. God’s way works. We’ve been married for a long time now, and we love each other very much. Did I mention that God’s way works?
So, what is the radical message of this book? It is simple: trust, develop a relationship with God, and wait. I will never forget the day I read these words on the page:
“My heart was saying:” Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long!” The Lord was answering: “I must teach you to long for something better.”
The book is filled with little pieces of wisdom she has gleaned through her years of devotion to God, reading His Word , and personal experience.
For example, on the topic of what men actually want, she says:
Women are always tempted to be initiators. We like to get things done. We want to talk about situations and feelings, get it out into the open, deal with it. It appears to us that men often ignore and evade issues, sweep things under the rug, forget about them, get on with projects , business, pleasure, sports, eat a big steak, turn on the television, roll over, and go to sleep. Women respond to this tendency by insisting on confrontation, communication, showdown. If we can’t dragoon our men into that, we nag, we plead, we get attention by tears, silence or withholding warmth, intimacy, and attention. We have a large bag of tricks. CS Lewis’ vision of purgatory was a place where milk was always boiling over, crockery smashing, and toast burning. The lesson assigned to men was to do something about it. The lesson assigned to women was to do nothing. That would be purgatory for most of us. Women, especially when it comes to the love life, can hardly stand to do nothing.
And yet… that is what we must do! Wait, and do nothing, maintaining holy friendships with all… and trust, keeping them at arms’ length until there is a declaration of love and intent from a man. Not only is this necessary for the purity and future health of the marriage, it is a treasure for the woman to have and hold the true meaning of womanhood not only in the single or celibate life but in the married life as well.
It helps me TODAY, in my marriage, to know these truths, and when I forget them, my marriage has suffered. What do men want from women?
This list is hers, but I have seen it over and over again through the years in everything from cosmo to psych journals…. always the same.
And lastly– mystery. that there is much in the inner workings of a woman’s heart that he hasn’t discovered yet.
In my own life, I have witnessed couples who have lived by these rules and seen the fruit of them. I have friends who never kissed another person until their wedding day. I have friends who remained unaffiliated and unattached until their engagement day. They have lives full of joy, even in the midst of trials and difficulties.
I have friends who have done nothing like that and claim that they are very happy with their choices. I know that I have regrets in my own choices NOT to follow her advice and that’s all I can go by.
Buy this book for your daughters, no matter what your religious background. Read it yourselves. It is a powerful testimony of the glory of womanhood fully lived, and a heart-warming relevation of the touch of the Divine Hand in the human experience. I have never read another book which so aptly captures the beautiful experience of womanhood and the sacredness of our calling.