As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I am reading a new biography of Hudson Taylor, one of my two all-time favorite protestant missionaries. Hudson was a missionary to China in the late 19th century. It isn’t my favorite biography of him, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the title: It is not Death to Die. That line is a quote from Pilgrim’s Progress. When, at the end of Valiant’s life, he crosses over to the Father’s House, “all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. IT IS NOT DEATH TO DIE.” We’ve had a lot of deaths affect us in our house in the last six months: residents at our Emmanuel Houses, the death of a very good friend, a sister of one of our Sisters, the mother of another one. We have been staring death in the face constantly these days. The title of the Taylor biography is a good reminder of the truth, that in Christ, death is really only apparent. It is not death to die.
And that reminded me of the title of a biography of my other favorite protestant missionary, Amy Carmichael. Elisabeth Elliot write a life of her named A Chance to Die. In the preface to her book, Elisabeth writes about the debt she owes to Amy Carmichael–I feel a similar debt–how she “met” her at age fourteen by reading her books. From her preface:
The first of her books that I read was, I think, If, which became her best-seller. It was not written for teenagers, but for seasoned Christians with the solemn charge of caring for the souls of others. It was from the pages of this thin blue book that I, a teenager, began to understand the great message of the Cross, of what the author called “Calvary love.” I saw the chance to die, to be crucified with Christ was not a morbid thing, but the very gateway to Life. I was drawn–slowly, fitfully (my response was fitful, but inexorably. (emphasis added)
I pray to be drawn even more inexorably into this frame of mind, looking for those chances to die to self, confidently knowing that it is not death to die.