When I see or hear this week’s word, I always think of the hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be”, by Frances Ridley Havergal (1874). The first verse is:
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Something or someone set apart or dedicated to the service of a deity is how the word is defined, and that’s the way it’s used in the hymn. This verse is really about the author dedicating her time to God, and in the verses that follow, she dedicates her body, mind, will, words, wealth and love. It’s one of those hymns where you really have to sing all the verses, since you wouldn’t want to give your body to God, but not your mind. Or to give your wealth but not your will.
Among the books in the accompanying photo is Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot. It is the now familiar story of five missionaries who were killed in 1955 in the Amazon jungle by the very people they were trying to reach with God’s word. They had made contact and received encouraging responses, and landed their small plane on a sandbar in the river near the settlement. After some days, there were no more radio updates to their wives and families. Concern grew, hope faded. They had all been killed. Two or three of the women (and children!) were able to actually continue the missionary work to the very people who had killed their husbands or brothers. The last hymn the five men sang before going off to their death was “We Rest on Thee”, by Edith G. Cherry (1895), which includes:
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with thee, through endless days.
This is the challenge of the idea of being set aside for a sacred purpose, as these men were. Do we accept that their deaths were the intended purpose? Or do we shake our fists to heaven, shouting, “How could you do this?!” It’s okay to be set aside for a sacred purpose in our hometown, where it’s safe. But to be sent thousands of miles from home to be killed by those you have come to serve, well that’s not as easy to accept. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Unfortunately, we can only prove that once.
Though I quoted only a small amount of two hymns by two different authors, I do see a similarities in what is quoted. Both reference time and eternity twisted together. The first refers to moments and days and “ceaseless praise”. The second actually uses the oxymoron, “endless days”. The second adds another twist in that it is speaking of victory in death, which is not just the proof that we were fit to live, but also the chance to rest with God forever, just on the other side of death.