I received an e-mail from a dear friend who is serving in Papua New Guinea last night. In it, I discovered this beautiful quote she had copied from a book by Isobel Kuhn, missionary to China.
“The difficult lessons of 1942 taught me to fear leaning heavily on human props. I had surrendered husband, child, friends, all I possessed, long ago. But this was something deeper. This was relinquishing my rights to them. This was holding them, but on the open palm of my hand. (Mrs. McFarlane…had taught me that metaphor. She said, “Keep your treasures on the open palm of your hand. If you hold something tight clenched in your fist, God may have to hurt you in order to open your fingers and take it from you. But if it is offered on the open palm of your hand, you will hardly know when it is gone.”) Hannah Hurnard in Hind’s Feet on High Places expressed this truth in a different way. Little Much-Afraid, says her beautiful allegory, longed to go with the Shepherd to the High Places. She goes through many trials to get there; the final and greatest is a descent into a steep canyon called the Grave. In this deep valley were an altar and a priest, and here she was asked to let the priest reach into her heart and pull out the plant called Natural Affection, root and branch. When I read that I nodded my head with delighted recognition. That was what happened to me in 1942 “when all my little candleflames burned out.” It does not mean that after such an experience all affection is gone. Just the very opposite is true. But affection in its natural state is dealt with. Affection , especially with intense natures, as it comes to us from Adam, runs to excess if given free rein. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the affections and lusts (strong desires),” said Paul (Gal. 5:24). Uncrucified love runs to inordinate affection and selfish possessiveness which blights rather than blesses. Little Much-Afraid gave up the plant of Natural Affection but she had already received the plant of the Lord’s love in her heart. When we allow the Lord to nail our affections to the cross (to use the scriptural metaphor), we do not cease to love. We love even more widely, but it is a love stripped of corrupting influences. Love is not killed – only the seed of corruption in natural affection is killed.”
– Isobel Kuhn
P.S. Check out Tolle Lege, an excellent blog with the purpose of glorifying God by sharing quotes from various books. I encourage you to check out the blog–I read it regularly and am always encouraged with the statements I find there. In addition, I am grateful to Nick at Tolle Lege for the recent drawing of a Westminster Books gift certificate which I was privileged to win to increase my own library of “great” books.