Sunday, March 21, 2010

Elizabeth Prentiss More Love to Thee -- first impressions and quotes

I have not finished reading Sharon James' biography of Elizabeth Prentiss, so this will not be a complete review, but I had so much to share at the half way point, I thought I'd do an early post on this book. For those of you who are not familiar with Elizabeth Prentiss, she was an 19th century Christian and author, who, among other things, penned the hymn "More Love to Thee" and a classic work of fiction Stepping Heavenward. Her biography has been on my "want-to-read" list for a long time, and since I grabbed up the hardcover book at the ETS sale at LifeWay, I've had it suggesting itself to me from the bookshelf.

The book started off a bit slowly, as biographies have a
tendency to do, but I was assured that Elizabeth would soon win me over as a heroine. Indeed, as I began the chapter "God Never Makes a Mistake" I also began to identify with her. Here is a quote:

"What a world of new sensations and emotion
s come with the first child! I was quite unprepared for the rush of strange feelings. I dare say the idea of Lizzy Payson with a baby seems quite funny to you . . . but I assure you it doesn't seem in the least funny to me, but as natural as life."

Elizabeth was
26 when she married and 28 years old when she had her first child. In that era, when girls often married young and bore children early, that is a rather remarkable thing! I didn't have my first child until I was 30 (almost 31), so I felt like I could identify with Elizabeth, a woman "of age" -- at least in those days. (I am not claiming to be a woman of age -- I know many wonderful women who are expecting in their 40's -- and I hope to be one of you one day).

Her sweet recollections of this first child were followed by tragic years where she lost her next two. My eyes burned with tears at the tale. We take it for granted today that babies enjoy much better health than they did 100 years ago, and that back then, mothers were always losing children in childbirth, or to childhood disease, etc. But I had never quite entered that world with a mother, and felt her raw pain. Elizabeth, a poet and writer, was able to express herself so freely and well, and open up her heart to the sovereign God above in prayers that were as honest as they were profound. Here is a short one:

One child and two green graves are mine
This is God's gift to me
A bleeding, fainting, broken heart --
This is my gift to Thee.

I appreciated that she was real about her suffering and sorrow -- but that gift of her sorrowful heart was still extended out to the God who she firmly believed to be in control. It was unbelievable how Elizabeth had premonitions about her children's deaths, and that doctors would not believe her. How agonizing to experience loss regardless of the circumstances, but how much more tortuous to endure poor care from doctors and nursemaids. How easy it would be to blame or dwell on the people whose mistakes were so grave, but Elizabeth believed, as I do, that all suffering is comes to us from God's good and kind hands, and must be for our good, to make us more like Christ. In my doctrine class the other night, Dr. Mohler said something beautiful and profound. I hope you find it to be so as well:

"Because God is in control and infinitely good and loving and merciful, anything other than what He brings would not be better, it would be worse."

I had to roll that around in my mind. It's too much to understand, really. But by faith, I think we can come to see how that is completely true.


GloryandGrace said...

Welcome back, dear friend! Since this is where our paths first crossed, I'm glad to see you back :)

That last quote you noted: "Because God is in control and infinitely good and loving and merciful, anything other than what He brings would not be better, it would be worse" brought tears to my eyes... I still need to read this book, so hold me a copy of there are still any available at Lifeway!

jillybean said...

yes, Dr. Mohler's words are tough to swallow. Glad that you are blogging again. :) I always enjoy reading. :)