Amy Carmichael
If: what do I know of Calvary love?

Amy Carmichael founded Dohnavur Fellowship in India to provide a sanctuary for young girls who were in desperate need of protection. Like Mother Teresa, she devoted her entire adult life to the people of India, demonstrating the meaning of self-sacrifice by how she lived.

Amy Carmichael wrote If for the community she led to help them to love better. The tiny book would be good required reading for church staff teams and mission teams. She asked the question What do I know of Calvary love? with the hope of stimulating love in her team. Loving deeply is always a challenge, especially among those with whom we live, and those with whom we work.

The challenge to forgive

The heart of the book contains rather heart-piercing if/then statements like this one:

If I say, "Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,"
as though the God,
who twice a day washes all the sands
on all the shores of all the world,
could not wash such memories from my mind,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

Strong stuff, isn't it? But what a beautiful analogy! Just as God washes clean the ocean's sands twice a day he is able to wash away the memories of offences endured. Whether the one I most need to forgive is myself or my neighbour, God offers each day a clean, smooth surface to write upon. This is God's mercy for us.

As I receive his grace of forgiveness for myself, I receive the grace to extend it to those who have injured me. In that I take comfort and have great hope.

A river of grace

Amy Carmichael didn't mince words as she called her team members to sacrificial living. But her book is also rich with grace. She uses another word picture to describe it.

If we stand at a riverbank and watch the water flow past, we can see that the water before us is continually displaced as a new supply flows from upstream. Likewise the flow of God's grace is endlessly supplied. It never ceases and is ever new.

Carmichael writes that she wants to encourage those who "are distressed by past failure and tormented by fear of failure in the future." She wants us to be assured that grace is always available. Failures do not need to defeat us.

A bit later she pictures us as a dry river bed being filled with God's grace after a rain. God fills us up so he can flow through us as we extend his grace to others. When I find myself resembling a dry riverbed, Carmichael's encouragement that God's grace in Jesus flows endlessly to his children speaks life and hope into my soul.

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