WANTED: DEAD and ALIVE

WANTEDEver since I was a child, my mother has had the impression that God had appointed me to a life of ministry.  When I was 12-years-old, she went to hear Elisabeth Elliot–missionary, author, speaker and radio host—deliver a message. After the presentation, my mother spoke privately to Elisabeth Elliot and shared her impression about my call to God’s service.

When mom came home, she presented me with a copy of The Journals of Jim Elliot and told me that Elisabeth Elliot signed the title page and inscribed a personal message for me. Wow. This great missionary lady, host of the Gateway to Joy radio program, wrote a message for me?

I opened the book and turned to the title page. There was her signature in large elegant Elliot_Signaturescript. Underneath she wrote a scripture reference—John 12:24. I immediately found my Bible and excitedly thumbed through the pages of John’s gospel to find out what verse Elisabeth Elliot had chosen just for me.

And, boy, was I ever disappointed when I read these words of Jesus:

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

It seemed that Elisabeth Elliot thought I should know that Jesus wanted me dead.

I wasn’t inspired.  It sounded so harsh, so unpleasant.

I didn’t like what she had to say, because I didn’t like what Jesus had to say. Even so, somewhere down deep inside, I knew it was true.

After this event, Jesus gave me about three decades to embrace His message, but I never really got around to dying. So Jesus began killing me. He ushered me into a wilderness season of trial and testing in which I experienced pain and suffered loss. And though I cried out many times for relief, He would not relent.

He wanted me dead.

Now, as I look back at the beginning of this wilderness season, I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Dave, I have things I’ve prepared for you to do. I have work that I intend to accomplish through you. But you’re not sufficiently dead yet.”

I understand much better now what Jesus is saying about the necessity of a seed dying in order to be fruitful. Jesus’ call to die is really an invitation to life.

I still have The Journals of Jim Elliot on my bookshelf after 35 years. Even before I embraced His call to die, I’ve always known that Elisabeth Elliot was an angel of God who had written on that title page a personal message from Jesus to me.

As for my mother’s early impressions, one of the things that had to die along with me was my own limited conception of ministry. Mom probably envisioned that I would be the pastor of a church on the corner of 1st and Elm St. But that’s not who I am.

Now that I’m dead, I’m alive–and free–to be the person God has called me to be.

10 thoughts on “WANTED: DEAD and ALIVE

  1. “Now that I’m dead, I’m alive–and free–to be the person God has called me to be.”
    That last line put a huge smile on my face … how ironic and how true!!! We see it over and over in other people’s lives (the whole death = life principle), but somehow think we’re excluded.
    And FYI: Just know that I’ll probably always click the “like” button your posts. 🙂

    • I do find it ironic. I once feared my death, but now I dance on my grave. I did not understand gospel truth until I experienced it through Christ’s mercy killing. Oh, by the way, I am very grateful for your “Like”-clicking tendencies 🙂

  2. I read the whole blog, but all I keep hearing in my head is, “Elisabeth Elliot signed the title page and inscribed a personal message for me.” How cool! I love that she was your angel with a message even before you fully comprehended the message. (Oh, and I’m pretty jealous that your mom got to meet Elisabeth Elliot!)

    • Yeah, my Mom talked with Elisabeth Elliot. My friend had lunch with her. But I have a signed message from God! 🙂 I do think it is remarkable that I never forgot what she cited. I am quite certain that God delivered that message to me through his appointed messenger.

  3. I would have made it over here eventually, but I came right now because Katie Beth said to read this, and I never argue with a pregnant woman. 🙂

    And happy she did … your posts are honest and relatable, so here I am honestly relating to “So Jesus began killing me.” And let me tell you, I die a slow death. If I had been God, I would have given up on me. Took me from 2006 until now (and I’m still not sure I’m completely dead) to get what he was up to. Thanks for putting it into words.

    I’m willing to be alive and free – still working on that part.

    • Good call on avoiding confrontation with a woman in KB’s condition 🙂 I relate to your experience of a “slow death,” slow learning and the patience of God. I do agree that there is more dying to come. Perhaps I should clarify by saying that I am now appreciably dead. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your own experience in dying.

  4. Thank you again Dave for your inspiring words! I praise God for your calling and that you answered it! Your postings always seem to be spot on in my life. Dying to self, something we are all called to do, is a journey that I find myself on. I am blessed to have realized this in my life. Now, I find myself striving daily to fully succumb to this concept in order to fulfill the calling the Lord has for my life. I thank you for sharing your life experience’s! They serve to impact others while giving glory to God. Blessings to you my brother in Christ!

    • Your comments are a tremendous encouragement to me, David! It is a pleasure to share our common struggles and to celebrate together the grace and power of God in our lives. I am grateful to be growing in community with brothers like you as we journey together toward Christ-likeness. May God give us grace to die that we might really live!

  5. Dave what a timeless message! And I’m with Katie Beth. I am a bit jealous (in the most godly of ways, of course!) that your mom got to meet Elisabeth Elliot in person. 🙂

    I loved this line: “Jesus’ call to die is really an invitation to life.” It’s so true. We can only be as alive as we are willing to be dead. If that makes sense. Thanks so much for the reminder that real living comes in dying to myself. So difficult, painful to do. But so essential. Thanks for the call to “die.” I think. 😉

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