All right, I’m back, having changed continents. Now that I am on the other side of the big pond, California, to be exact, I am aware that although geography,culture, weather, law and a host of other things change from nation to nation and continent to continent, the spiritual world remains ever constant in its ways. Love is love in its essential elements and design in all cultures. Two defining characteristics are dominant for me in experiencing and observing love at work in my life. The first is the element of self-denial – its not about me, my needs, wishes, or desires; its about the other and the act of giving rather than getting.
The second defining mark of love which is carved in my soul like a marble statue is that love is inextricably linked with the politically incorrect word ‘obedience’. Leaving aside, for another blog, the discussion of abusive authoritative power which leads to suppression and oppression, my understanding of the concept of obedience is this: a voluntary assent to come into agreement with another’s will (or wish or desire) concerning a given specific. I don’t want to get off on a long diatribe about ‘obedience’ (which I refuse to replace with some impotent euphemism) because I am really headed toward those Indians in Ecuador which I mentioned in the previous blog. However, I will digress for a couple more sentences on the subject in order to provide a broader base for understanding what took place during my stay with the Indians. Christ linked obedience with love when He mandated obedience as a requirement for maintaining an intimate relationship with Him. (John 14: 15, 21, 23-24). It does seem like a no-brainer to think that an intimate relationship could be maintained if two individuals are walking on diverging paths. The decision to defer one’s own will to another for the purpose of developing an intimate relationship is a matter of trust and respect.- the ballast in love.
In 1995 I had the privilege of working on the film, “End of the Spear” as an acting coach and movement specialist. It was a profound experience for me. I loved my work on the film, but the stunning effect on my life came through meeting the Indians who were the murderers of Nate Saint and the four other missionaries working with the Auca Indians in Ecuador. The Indian, Mincaye, who was the young chief of the tribe which massacred the missionaries in 1956 in Ecuador had thrown two nine-foot spears into Nate Saint’s defenseless body at close range.
Any given work day for me on the film included a rib-crushing bear hug from Mincaye and a conversation with Steve Saint (Nate’s son) or Steve’s son Joshua who considered Mincaye to be a grandfather to him, about the life which Rachel Saint(Nate’s sister) and Steve Saint’s family had lived with Mincaye for years in their jungle village . Trying to glue together the fact that the sister and son and son’s family of a savagely murdered victim had devoted a large section of their life to live with the murderers of the victim and try to improve their life was, to say the least, an exercise in mental gymnastics. This was especially true when reminded that the whole alliance was initiated by the wives of the murdered missionaries who walked into the jungle with small children in tow (where no one else would dare to go, not even the military) completely defenseless. They had nothing more lethal with them than a radio….AND, the Love of God for these people. Acting on obedience, the women risked their lives and the lives of their children to bring the knowledge of God and His son, Jesus Christ, to that hostile tribe. The gift of love became theirs and their descendents.
One morning, while boarding the bus which picked me up at the hotel and then headed out for the filming location, Mincaye got up from his seat and walked to the door of the bus and met me with an embrace and small prayer. As he held me tight, I had this surreal experience. I felt transported by his love-as if I had left the earth and was now welded in some kind of eclipsing universal love. At the same time pictures traveled with javelin-like thrusts through my imagination which depicted the horrifying acts of Mincaye on that fateful day when he killed Nate Saint. And yet, I wanted him never to let go of me. He continued to hug me for a long time until those other images in my mind became vague and finally indistinguishable. They were gone – swallowed up by the intense energy of Mincaye’s love for me. I saw at that moment the fulfillment of what God had communicated to me so many years ago in 1971. Love was the most powerful force in the Universe.It could turn evil into good and hate into love – love so enormous that one would give up all for it.
How to do that? This was my question. The answer to that lies in intimacy and will bring me up to the spiritual favor bestowed on me in 2009.
For more information on the story of the five missionaries go to:
Beyond the Gates of Splendor – documentary available on DVD
End of the Spear – feature film available on DVD
Through Gates of Splendor – book by Elisabeth Elliot
On Asking God Why – book by Elisabeth Elliot