During a delightful evening spent together as families, a sweet friend and I snuck some private minutes together to talk about things unique to us as women while our husbands were deep in discussion in another room and our children moved all over the house. How refreshing it was to exchange thoughts, concerns, prayer needs, and the way the Lord is currently holding His holy mirror to our faces to reveal our sin and help us lose our own images - and replace them with His.
I cannot remember how Amy Carmichael was welcomed into our conversation, but as soon as my friend heard her name she asked, "Have you read her book if?" I had never heard of it, so she explained the premise of the book adding, "EVERY time I read it I am so convicted I feel like I cannot speak for days." With an endorsement such as that, my only thought was to add it to my never-ending-and-always-growing book wishlist! I barely had time to look it up, however, when it arrived at my door.
It is a tiny book, just four inches by six inches, with barely 50 pages. But it is a POWERFUL book. After reading just a few of the "if, then" statements, I understood why my friend felt she could not speak after absorbing words of such deep conviction.
Though it would be easy to quote the entire book, I will let Amy's own words introduce it, and then write out some of the "ifs" that struck me like a blow. If you are familiar with Amy, you will be neither surprised nor offended by her blunt and intense manner. If she is new to you, take heart. Her intense, focused, passionate nature is exactly who God made her to be - so she could do the work He called her to do.
How if came to be written. "One evening a fellow worker brought me a problem about a younger one who was missing the way of Love. This led to a wakeful night, for the word at such times is always, "Lord, is it I? Have I failed her anywhere? What do I know of Calvary love?" And then sentence by sentence the "Ifs" came, almost as if spoken aloud in the inward ear."
✽ if I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve around myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I do not give a friend "the benefit of the doubt," but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if the praise of men elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
✽ if I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
How the book closes ...
"Let us end on a very simple note: Let us listen to simple words; our Lord speaks simply: "Trust Me, my child," He says. "Trust Me with a humbler heart and a fuller abandon to My will than ever thou didst before. Trust Me to pour my love through thee, as minute succeeds minute. And if thou shouldst be conscious of anything hindering the flow, do not hurt My love by going away from Me in discouragement, for nothing can hurt love so much as that. Draw all the closer to Me; come, flee unto Me to hide thee, even from thyself. Tell Me about the trouble. Trust Me to turn My hand upon thee and thoroughly to remove the boulder that has choked thy riverbed, and take away all the sand that has silted up the channel. I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. I will perfect that which concerneth thee. Fear thou not, O child of My love; fear not.""
Thank You, Lord, for the life and ministry of Amy Carmichael. Oh, how much I wish I had been her friend! Thank You for moving her head, heart, and hand to chronicle the lessons You so faithfully and lovingly taught her as she walked in obedience day by day, because as I read about her life and her astounding ability to depend on You and trust You for all things - it feels like she IS my friend. And I am thrilled that she is - my sister!