This year I have loved reading Amy Carmichael’s books. If we’re friends on facebook, or in real life, you’re probably a little sick of her. Oh well. I do try to balance things. But seriously. Sometimes an author just grabs us (me), and I have to tell everyone!
Big disclaimer here: Although the book I’ll be talking about is written to missionaries, I have taken it to heart as someone in full-time ministry. I have absolutely no wish to criticize any missionary, and would be so sad if it was taken that way. So if you are a missionary, please read this with that thought in mind!
I’ll tell you about just ONE of Amy’s books that I’ve read this year.
This little book is tiny-58 small pages. And yet, this is one of the books that broke my heart over what I am.
In the note to it’s third re-print, Amy says:
It is a surprise that such a book has been wanted again. If criticism, fair and sometimes otherwise could have killed it, it would have been dead by now.”
She goes on to describe how it has been trashed, thrown away, burned up, misquoted, and written against in ‘opposition tracts’, as well as “all but smothered by too much affection”. And yet…she said, “it refuses to die”.
That’s just the sort of book I like to read. But it’s scary, writing about a book like this. Because those of you who know me, also know how I fail. So, you’ll maybe see how this book is a pride killer.
The title is God’s Missionary. And while I am certainly not an overseas missionary, I do feel that for those of us that are in full-time ministry (any ministry, really), we can take the message in this book deeply to heart.
First off, Amy tells a story of several missionaries attending a conference (in India, where she was serving). As she sat with an Indian woman on one of the breaks, the woman bluntly told her, “What is the use of such meetings? You missionaries say one thing and do another!”
Ouch. Amy could see that this lady had been wounded, and tried to offer her some reasons to attend this particular conference. But that only pushed the woman to say:
“[Our] people have noticed that when a missionary first came out, he was usually warm and loving and keen to win souls. Then gradually…he cooled…and who can say that you missionaries lead specially holy lives? We Indian Christians observe. We observe you not only when you are at work, but when you are off work too. Is there anything remarkable about you? Are you burning hot people?
We look to you to show us patterns, and you are showing us crooked patterns.”
Oh boy. I feel like I was there. Or that I’ve sat through similar conversations. More than once.
Maybe this doesn’t only happen in India. Maybe Christians struggle with this, and maybe we don’t know that it matters. And that people are watching to see what we’re really like.
Amy goes on to say “the words scorched”…although the woman was hurt and angry, there was enough truth there to “lay [Amy] low down in the dust”.
Then Amy says something pretty controversial in Christian circles: She says that this book she is writing is not meant for the older, and more experienced Christian worker. It is “only meant as a little word, offered in all humility to younger fellow missionaries, who have not made up their minds”.
Oh dear. Because the older we are, the more we’re stuck? Stuck in showing crooked patterns?
She ends this first chapter like this:
“Comrades in this solemn fight-this awful conflict with awful powers- let us settle…something that cannot be shaken: we are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives.
We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to our Lord Jesus.
Anything that would hinder us from the closest walk that is possible to us till we see Him face to face is not for us.
We need to be sensitive to the first approach of the hindering thing. For the sake of souls that may be stumbled if we turn even ever so little aside, for the sake of our Master’s glory-dearer surely to us than all else– let us ask Him now to show us whether in any[way] we have been showing ‘crooked patterns’.”
-Amy Carmichael, emphasis added
And now, hopefully you know why this hurts. And why I feel drawn to write about it. More coming soon.