I had the sweet privilege of meeting Valerie Elliot Shepard at the annual fundraising dinner for the pregnancy care center where I work part-time. She was our keynote speaker. If you are unfamiliar with Valerie, she is the only child of missionaries Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. Her father was killed while serving in Ecuador. He is known for the famous quote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Here is an excerpt from Valerie’s bio:
Born February 27th, 1955 in Shell Mera, Ecuador, Valerie was the only daughter of missionary parents, Elisabeth and Jim Elliot. They were missionaries to the Quichua Indians of the Amazon jungle. In 1956, while attempting to reach the Waodani Indians (a primitive and savage stone-age tribe) with 4 other missionaries, Jim was speared to death in January of 1956. Elisabeth and Valerie continued to live with the Quichuas until miraculously they were invited to live with the Waodani tribe that had killed Jim. They lived with these Indians for 2 years in safety and contentment, as Elisabeth and another missionary, Rachel Saint learned to speak the language and translated the story of Jesus to them. Most of them accepted the truth and said they would not kill anymore, and have not since that time.
What an amazing testimony.
I was mostly excited about meeting her because she has eight children whom she homeschooled. I was her liaison for the evening and was hoping for time to hear her tell me all about the wonders and joys of homeschooling and mothering eight wonderful children. Of course, I wasn’t the only one who wanted to talk with her that evening, so I settled for a brief chat as I escorted her and her precious husband to their table for the evening.
In those few minutes, she shared that she homeschooled off and on based on a few different factors–one of those being her self-admitted lack of organization and structure. Before I had even met Valerie and because of what I knew of her life, I had put her on a pedestal and was hoping for the secret to having a big family and home education. She encouraged me that I could do it and said the most important thing I can do is read aloud to my children from day one. Well, we’ve got one thing going for us. 😉
She took her seat and I made my way to mine one table over. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and listened to a ministry update and two beautiful testimonies from a volunteer and a ministry partner. Then it was time for Valerie to speak.
I wish I could have recorded her every word. She talked about the importance of prayer. She quoted Scripture verse after verse. She said she believed she had the perfect mother. I believe I have one of those, too. She wanted to be a mommy from the time she was three years old. Hey, me too. She was an only child, so she thought it would be fun to have 10-12 children… “the more, the merrier!” she said. She was to be the perfect mother with perfectly obedient children. I want(ed) to be one of those, too. Perfection is a hard task master, she said.
Yes, it is, I thought.
After years of mothering, she came to the realization that her ideals of being the perfect mom had in fact become idols. I don’t want to put words in her mouth, so I’ll speak from my perspective. I have put my ideals of being the perfect mom with the perfectly clean house and the perfectly prepared dinners and the perfect relationship with my children and the perfectly structured and organized day above seeking what God has for me each day. My ideals have become idols. They are little “g” gods.
We hear so often that it’s not usually the bad things that we put above God, it’s the good things. Church service, volunteering, being a good friend, being a good mom… These things are important. But they are not God.
What is my motivation for being a good mom? What is your motivation for serving at church or volunteering in the community? Are you following God’s leading? Or are you trying to uphold your reputation? Are you trying to please others?
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
Valerie quoted Lilias Trotter, a missionary to Africa in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“If our days are a constant rush and hurry, week in and week out, there is grave reason to doubt if it is all God given seed that we are scattering. He will give us no more to do than can be done with our spirits kept quiet and ready and free before Him.”
This quote really struck me. As I said in an earlier post, knowing God is my greatest privilege as a follow of Jesus. Often our “to do” list makes us feel important, but we are valued because we were created by the Maker of Heaven and Earth and He loved us enough to make atonement for our sin through His truly perfect Son. I don’t have to be perfect, because He is. And He is my righteousness. He is enough.
Before we begin each day, before we embark upon any task or situation, we need to pray. We need to live out Galatians 2:20,
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Pray that God would empty you of yourself and fill you with His Holy Spirit and let Christ live in you.
If my main focus is to let Christ live through me, then I am no longer concerned about Anna and whether or not she is perfect (or perceived as such), but I am focused on Christ. Amen.
I went to the fundraising dinner with expectations of hearing a message about supporting pregnancy care centers (which I did), but it was so much more. God used Valerie to speak to my heart and give me a gentle reminder that I do not have to be perfect. In fact, I won’t be. And it’s okay. God is enough.
Don’t let your ideals become idols.