What Have You Got to Lose?
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
“All I can offer you is a chance to die.”
These are the terms outlined by Amy Carmichael as she responded to letters from English women who were considering missionary life with her India. In 1903, rescuing young girls from temple prostitution was groundbreaking early work in human trafficking.
Challenging. Dangerous. Humbling.
Yet Amy served there for fifty-five years without a furlough, establishing the Dohnavur Fellowship, which housed nine hundred children at the time of her death in 1951. These wounded and broken children called her “Amma,” the Tamil word for “Mother.”
Amy Carmichael understood the paradox in Jesus’ words: “If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:24) Early in her missionary career, when crossed by a coworker, she had clearly heard the voice of God before she reacted in defense: “See in this a chance to die.” And thus began her journey of dying to self in order to give life to others.
In the middle of her vibrant ministry, Amy suffered a fall and was bedridden the last half of her life. She kept her windows and doors constantly open to the children, and she wrote volumes of poetry. (The epigraphs for sections in both my books Ordinary Graces and Dwelling Places are from Amy Carmichael’s poems.)
In today’s verse, Jesus is reminding us that as we release with open hands of surrender, we will be filled with grace gifts we never dared hope for. Give up your perceived right to control; and discover that God’s sovereignty will orchestrate everything better than you possibly imagined.
Early missionaries did not pack trunks as they set off on long voyages across the world to take the gospel to hidden tribes. Instead, they each packed a coffin, one that would eventually be used to bury them in their new land. What does this say about commitment? They knew their venture would end in death, yet they still chose to do it—the loss was worth the hopeful kingdom gain.
Flannery O’Connor once said, “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
Do you realize that every gain comes through loss?
I am writing these words on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the death of a young wife and mother of three. What a loss this was to all who loved and needed her.
But it was my eventual gain. Only God.
Three years after her death, I received a priceless gift when I went to court in Seattle and adopted those three precious children. They have filled this mama’s life with more joy, purpose, on-my-knees-prayer, and hopes than you can imagine.
“The only way anyone gets to adoption is through a door of loss and unless you fully feel the depth of that loss, the door you’re walking through leads to nowhere honest.” (Ann Voskamp)
What are we willing to lose in order to know Him more fully? Our reputation? Our stuff? Our control? Our own dreams?
under the mercy, Cindy
©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell in Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)
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