If you have strong feelings for someone, how and when do you let it be known? Today, Elisabeth Elliot, author of the popular book Quest for Love, talks about using your head before awakening your heart.
If you have strong feelings for someone, how and when do you let it be known? Today, Elisabeth Elliot, author of the popular book Quest for Love, talks about using your head before awakening your heart.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear today from Elisabeth Elliot about why singles ought to wait on the Lord and about what can happen if you choose not to.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.
Dennis: Bob, what did you think about Coke classic when it came back after…
Bob: …after New Coke?
Dennis: Right. I thought they blew it on that one.
Bob: I thought New Coke was a serious misstep and we were right on that one. Bringing back the classic was the thing to do wasn’t it?
Dennis: Everybody enjoys the classic. I like ESPN classics and today on FamilyLife Today we want to bring you one of our classics.
Bob: This is an interview that we recorded back in 1996 with Elisabeth Elliot. It really does rank as one of our top all time favorite interviews. It was a delight to sit down with a woman who I look at as a spiritual hero. For those people who don’t know Elisabeth’s husband Jim was martyred in 1956 in Ecuador. They had been married 17 or 18 months when Jim died.
Bob: Here was Elisabeth with her little baby girl and a husband who had just been killed in a foreign land.
Dennis: And she went back to the tribe that had murdered her husband. She ended up with a spiritual breakthrough as she modeled what forgiveness and redemption looks like. You mentioned that she was and is a spiritual hero. She’s also spunky and I think that’s part of why we like this broadcast. She has a rhy smile and a twinkle in her eyes that is infectous. I think our listeners are really going to enjoy hearing her talk about quest for love.
Bob: The subject we engaged her on is one that she has written about. Dating, relationships, marriage and what the Bible has to say about that. She has some background it that. She met her husband Jim while they were both students at Wheaton College. They went their separate ways and ultimately God brought them together. They were married for a short time and then he was martyred. She then after a period of years met the man who became her second husband, Addison Leach, and he contracted cancer. They were married for four years and I remember when we had interviewed her she had married her third husband, Lars Gren, and she told us she had been single more years of her life than she had been married.
Dennis: Yes, that’s right.
Bob: She understood as a result that challenges of relationships and she had written very practically to singles about how to and how not to pursue relationships.
Dennis: Yes, and she really writes to singles about what I would consider a new standard of a dating relationship. It is one that is not really talked about or heard about in this culture.
Bob: She wrote a book called Passion and Purity that became a classic. People read that book and then responded to her with stories of their own dating relationships and that became the book Quest for Love. When we sat down with her in 1996 to talk about it was about the stories she had heard from people about their dating relationships.
Dennis: Explain to our listeners what Quest for Love is all about and why you wrote it.
Elisabeth: I think the dating system as it’s conducted today is a minefield. It is a very dangerous place through which you must tiptoe very carefully. And I would like to abolish dating altogether but on the other hand, I realize that there used to be some rules that made sense.
My purpose in writing Quest for Love was to help young people to realize that there are biblical principles which have been ignored. They’re just unknown to the average young person, even the average young Christian today. And I’ve compiled stories, some from old biographies of another century, some from contemporary ones. I’ve received wonderful stories from some young people who have amazing courtship stories to tell of how God brought them together in most unexpected ways, without going through all the agonies of smelling every rose in the world and then coming back and finding it’s the rose in your own backyard that God has picked out for you. As I was reading through these stories – and I also should mention that the book includes some wild and crazy stories…
Dennis: It really does.
Elisabeth: …that I have received from readers of Passion and Purity, who say, in effect, “If only I’d had this book five years sooner or two years sooner” or “Why didn’t my parents tell me this, why didn’t my teachers, why didn’t the pastor?” You know, these older people that are supposed to have given them guidance apparently hadn’t done that. I put those stories in, the wild and crazy ones, with the hope that my readers have sufficient discernment to see which are the ones which are exemplary and which are the ones to be deplored.
So the contrast between these various methods ought to get a certain message across. But, you know, it wasn’t until I had almost finished writing the book, Dennis, that it dawned on me that in virtually every single case where the courtship was done right, barring all these wild and crazy ones, there was a third party involved. And right away people get all twitchy if you mention anything that sounds like matchmaking. You know, “I don’t want anybody telling me who I’m going to marry. I’m going to find my own husband or wife.”
God’s purpose from the very beginning, I believe, is that older people, wise people, somebody else should have a part in bringing two people together. It doesn’t have to be an older person, necessarily. I’m sure that some of our listeners are familiar with the story of Abraham sending out his servant to find a wife for Isaac. We don’t have any idea that the servant was older but we know the specific things that he did. He went in obedience, of course, to his master Abraham. He went with a specific purpose in mind and he went to the logical place where women could be observed with propriety, which was the town well.
He stood there and he did two things that I don’t think very many young men today have ever thought of doing. One was he watched quietly and he prayed silently. It’s observation of character that young men need to learn before any kind of a conversation takes place, let alone a date. And I, myself, know the value of that because I had observed Jim Elliot on the college campus for months before he and I ever had a personal conversation. And when we had the personal conversation, it wasn’t on any level of intimacy whatsoever.
We were talking about scripture passages. We were talking about Amy Carmichael’s writing and it blew my mind to find a man who happened to be a champion wrestler – I mean, he was a real he-man – who was a fan of Amy Carmichael to the point where he had memorized some of her poetry. We found that God had been dealing with us through the same hymns. So there were a lot of things that we discovered in common. We were not talking about feelings. But it was through observation and, of course, in both of our cases, we were certainly praying silently. We were not talking to each other about a “relationship.”
The minute I hear that word relationship, I know that that young person is in trouble. I want to say to them, “What kind of a relationship is this? How would you define it?” “Well, I don’t know. I mean, like, you know, it’s just really neat. I mean, he’s just a really good friend.”
“Wait a minute. Is this any different from all the rest of your really good friends?” “Oh, yeah. You know, I mean, like, you know, well, we’ve really been enjoying each other’s company and etcetera, etcetera.”
But the word relationship is a pitfall already because according to scripture there are only three possible relationships between one man and one woman and it never falls into those three categories when I press these girls as to what this relationship is. And those relationships are brother and sister, which would apply to all Christian men and all Christian women. You two men, Bob and Dennis, are my brothers in Christ.
Elisabeth: So we – and I am your sister. But you would never dream of saying “I’m in a relationship with Elisabeth Elliot.”
Elisabeth: If you did, I mean, the whole world would be buzzing. But the only other two are betrothal and marriage. So when they start talking about being in a relationship, they’re already in the soup.
Dennis: Well, now, Elizabeth, hold it right there. There’s a single woman going, she’s going, “Hey, wait a second. How do I establish a relationship that moves to marriage if I don’t have a relationship?” I mean, how do you get there from here, Elisabeth?
Elisabeth: I’m going to give an answer that young people are going to say, “What?! I mean, really, is that the only thing I’m supposed to do?” My answer is, “Wait on the Lord. Trust God. The shepherd is much more interested in getting the sheep where the sheep belong, than the sheep are in getting there.”
Do you think that the Lord of the universe knows how to bring you to the right man or the right man to you at the right time? Do you think He knows how? You have got to learn to trust and obey. Everything I have to say in all of my books comes down to those two simple words: trust and obey. And God’s been doing it.
The thing I always want to say to young people who say, “Well, how in the world am I ever going to find somebody to marry if I don’t date?” “How in the world do you think most of the marriages throughout most of human history have occurred? There was no such thing as dating. It’s a very recent phenomenon. Just because it happens to be what is done in our culture doesn’t mean it’s the only way.
Bob: Okay. I want a little personal coaching here. I’m the father of a 15-year old daughter. What should I be doing – what should Mary Ann and I be doing with our daughter if we wanted to move her in the direction of a biblical approach to finding a mate? And then what’s our responsibility in that process?
Elisabeth: Well, of course, you’re praying and that is by far the most important thing, that God will preserve that woman, that dear girl and her virginity. It’s a gift you can only give away once. Do you want to give it to the right person or the wrong person? And bringing young people together in your home, and I think that’s one of the most important things.
I should write another whole book, I guess, about the responsibility that we older people have to make young people available to each other. My father met my mother at dinner at the home of an old lady. She was a very wealthy lady who used to invite crowds of young people to her house for the very purpose of making it possible for them to meet each other in a safe environment. So my father took a shine to my mother at that dinner and then asked if he could visit her in her home. I think it’s extremely important, as I said, that there should be a third party, whether its parents or godly older people in the church, whoever.
Dennis: You know, I’m listening here and I’m thinking that would make an incredible ministry of an older couple having singles after church or, for that matter, before church into their home to provide an opportunity for fellowship, recreation, interaction, Bible study, prayer. And perhaps would be an answer to the sweatshops and the bar scene that lures them away from the spiritual content of the scriptures.
Dennis: It sounds to me like your dad was able to meet your mom because of that very situation.
Elisabeth: Exactly. And I want to get a message across very loud and clear to the older people. Of course, Titus 2 says that the older men are to be teaching the younger men, and the older women are to be teaching the younger women. I don’t find that happening in very many churches.
Elisabeth: The older men and women are tooling around in fancy mobile homes, they’re going to Arizona to play golf. They’re not available anymore. And they would say to me, “The young people do not want our advice.” And the young people say to me, “The older people that you’re describing are not available.”
But I have asked for a show of hands a number of times when I’ve been speaking to a large audience, “May I see the hands of you older people who would be willing to be available?” And they’re always quite a few hands that go up. Then I say, “May I see the hands of the young people who are willing to listen to advice?” Lots of hands go up. So it’s very important that young people be willing to run by an older person their interest in a person of the opposite sex, to say to them, “Does this seem like a sensible match to you?”
They’re much more likely to have a successful marriage if there has been a third party in there praying for them, advising them. And again, I have to go back to my own experience. Not only did I have godly parents who were praying for me and protecting me, but I had four or five spiritual mothers who were available in places where my mother was not available.
For example, after college I went to Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada. The wife of one of the staff members there, a sweet old Scottish lady whom I called Mom Cunningham, my Canadian mom, listened to my heartbreaks over Jim Elliot. She was just there. She said, “Oh, Betty, dear. If you ever want a cup of Scottish tea and a scone, just pop down to my little apartment and we’ll just have a little talk.” And I would pop down to her little apartment on a wintry bitter day and she would put the kettle on and she would get out the Scottish scones.
I would talk about Jim Elliot practically all the time, whereupon she would get out her Bible, she’d read the Bible, she’d pray for me and she prayed from then on until Jim and I got married. I think she was one of God’s instruments in bringing us together. She had never met Jim. She was thousands of miles away from him. But I listened to her and I poured out my heart to her. Where are these white-haired people that ought to be available?
Dennis: And so we need to call upon the older generation to step into the lives of the young generation and pull them toward maturity. We need to challenge them to holiness, godliness, to responsibility, to moral purity.
Dennis: But as we’ve asked these questions, Elisabeth, it seems to me the shortage isn’t of the young people who want to learn. It’s of the older people who are afraid they won’t know what to say.
Dennis: They are fearful that they won’t have the answers to the younger generation.
Elisabeth: Mom Cunningham was a very simple, lovely, sweet, simple person. She and her husband had lived on Great Slave Lake way up in Northwest Territory and they were the only white people. She was the only white woman on that whole lake. They were all Indians. She was a godly woman. And I don’t remember asking her a whole lot of hard questions about, you know, what do I say to Jim or how do I get him interested in me. I’m sure I didn’t ask questions like that. She opened the Bible. The person who says, “Oh, well, I wouldn’t know what to say to them,” tell them you’ll pray. And certainly, anybody with a little distance from a couple who think they’re made for each other will have some opinion as to whether this looks like a good match.
Bob: Should a parent be involved in arranging a marriage for a son or a daughter?
Elisabeth: Yes. Yes. I really think so.
Bob: Now how do I do that as a dad?
Elisabeth: If a young man is interested in your daughter and wants to take her out, say on a date, then he has to run that by you. He has to come to you first. And you meet the man, you talk to him, you get some idea of what sort of a person this is and how he’s going to treat your daughter. So that’s essential.
I think it’s very important, if possible, that both parents – the parents of the boy and the girl – have some communication. And this, of course, ideally is two sets of Christian parents that we’re talking about. It doesn’t always work that way, but God knows how to take care of that, too. We need to learn to trust the Lord to give us wisdom when the time comes.
Dennis: So you wouldn’t leave a young person to make that decision of who they marry on their own, as a parent now?
Elisabeth: Absolutely not. And I hadn’t realized until I began studying my own family – my four brothers, my sister and me – just how much influence our parents had on all of us. And there’s only one member out of the six of us who actually went against our parents’ wishes and that one person is divorced.
Dennis: You’re confirming something that I’ve been sensing and Bob’s going to probably look at me and smile now because he knows that I have four daughters and two sons and none of them are married yet. But as Barbara and I have prayed and talked and interacted with our children as they become young adults, I personally have felt, Elisabeth, that most parents become more and more distant from their children as they begin to move into the age of becoming married and move into the process of selecting a spouse.
As I look at it, certainly not controlling them, certainly not being God in their lives because they have to have their own walk with God and dependence upon him, but I see them as still needing our wisdom, our counsel, our advice and our discernment as they move into these dating relationships. And I think it’s very important that the parents do talk to the parents of the young man who is dating your daughter, or of the young lady who is dating your son, especially if it becomes serious. I sense a need for those families to be connected just so the godly parents can discern what God is doing here.
Elisabeth: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, Dennis. I really don’t want to hear about dating, you know, unless it’s groups. And that was the case back in my parents’ day. No self-respecting man or woman would go out alone with a member of the opposite sex. If my father wanted to take my mother out of that living room to a concert, for example, or to a meal, he had to get another couple or a chaperone. But they would never go out alone.
So you fathers of girls have to take your part, your responsibility in seeing to it that nice Christian young men come to your home. And your daughters are allowed to go to Christian homes where there are men, and you get to know them. When you invite the man to your home, you know, go on a family picnic and see how he treats your wife, for example. It’s very important to observe the way a man treats older women and his own peers. There are many ways in which the character is revealed and we need to emphasize character over looks.
Dennis: I’m not sure if it’s the result of the epidemic of insecure men who have become husbands and fathers today, or a lack of faith and true godliness in the Christian community. But these thoughts we’re talking about here, I don’t sense them being reinforced by the Christian community with a legion of voices. I’ve talked about some of these ideas on this broadcast and before audiences and I kind of feel like at times, Elisabeth, as though I’m a lone voice and you’re sensing from the young people, “Yes, we want our parents. Yes, we are desirous of their involvement in our lives.”
Dennis: But the parents are afraid. It seems Christian leaders don’t want to step into this. It looks heavy-handed. And yet, as you point out in your book how much worse does it need to get, the divorce rate – how much more does the church need to be crippled by broken marriages and families before we realize the present system isn’t working.
And we’d better, as dads and as moms, re-think the whole dating thing, re-think the whole courtship thing, re-think the whole opposite sex touching one another, and step into it with a prayerful heart, asking God to give us wisdom. We don’t have to have all the answers before we step in there.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening back to an interview that was recorded back in 1996 with Elisabeth Elliot. I’m listening to it thinking so what has changed?
Bob: Not much right?
Dennis: I think the same message that was relevant back then may be 2X more relevant today.
Bob: And your convictions about what need to happen haven’t changed either.
Dennis: Oh, my goodness. We are strident here on FamilyLife Today wanting to encourage and strengthen moms and dads to build this kind of thinking into the lives of their young people. Because if you don’t the culture is going to get them.
Dennis: I’m not a doomsdayer I just know that with all the electronic media that is coming at our kids there are more ways today for our kids to be seduced by the culture than ever before. So moms and dads you have to have the right kinds of standards and the right kind of relationship and be calling your children to those standards.
Bob: Yes, and we have tried here at FamilyLife to provide moms and dads with a variety of resources to help you do that at different stages in your children’s lives. For example we have The Passport to Purity resource for when your kids are preteens so that you can start to have the conversation with them about relationships and about the opposite sex and what that is going to look like for them.
Your son, Samuel, and your daughter, Rebecca, wrote together with you and Barbara called So You’re About to Be a Teenager. That’s for young teens to be able to read on their own. Then there are books like the one we have talked about today that Elisabeth Elliot Passion and Purity and the follow up to it Quest for Love. Those are timeless resources not just to hand off to your teenager and say here read this but to read through together with your teen. To use it as an opportunity as a conversation starter. Read a chapter each week on your own and then the two of you go out to Starbucks or go out somewhere that your teen likes and talk about what’s in the chapter.
We have copies of all of these resources in the FamilyLife Resource Center. Go to our web site FamilyLife Today.com to find out more about these resources. You can order from us if you’d like or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life and then the word TODAY and someone on our team will let you know how you can get any of the resources sent to you.
I want to add a note here to remind you that FamilyLife Today is listener supported and those of you who listen regularly I know that some of you have either gone online or called us at 1-800-FL-TODAY and made a donation to help support the ministry and help keep this program on the air on this station and other stations all across the country. We appreciate your ongoing support of this ministry.
If you are a new listener and maybe you’ve been listening for a while and you’ve never contacted us to make a contribution we want to invite you to get in touch with us and let us know how God is using the ministry of FamilyLife Today in your life. If you are able to help with a donation we would appreciate that and in fact we have a thank you gift we’d like to send you this month. It’s a two CD set of our conversation with Pastor Chip Ingram on the subject we’ve been talking about today. He had just written a book called Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships and he had some very helpful things to say for singles about how you evaluate relationships.
We are happy to send you these two CDs to you as our way of saying thank you for your financial support of this ministry. When you make a donation of any amount this month for FamilyLife Today if you make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com you’ll want to type the word “love” in the key code box on the online donation form so we’ll know to send you the CDs.
Or if you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone just ask for the CDs about relationships. We’ll know what you are talking about. We’ll be happy to send those to you. Thanks again for your support of this ministry. We do appreciate your financial partnership with us. We really do appreciate you.
Now tomorrow we‘re going to hear the conclusion of our classic interview with Elisabeth Elliot. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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