Amy Carmichael: The Shaping Of Surrendered Single Woman

Amy Carmichael (1867 – 1951) was Born in Belfast Ireland, to a devout family of Scottish ancestry. She was oldest of seven children and she attended a Wesleyan Methodist girls boarding school, until her father died when she was 18. After which, she spread her wingd and made indelible mark on earth.

Walking through her life’s story, any young woman will desire to live the life of impact and influence she had. But Amy didn’t arrive there coincidentally. A lot of things shaped her into that amazing woman we read about even long after her death.

And that’s what I want to share with you from her biography:

1. Amy Carmichael’s encounter with God

For everyone who makes an impact – for God and in the world – there’s always the story of one or more specific encounters that transformed their lives. Amy Carmichael’s biography recounts one.

Walking home from service with her family one Sunday, they met an old beggar woman staggering out of a side alley. Her clothes were tattered, and her feet were wrapped in strips of rags that were clogged with mud. And she carried a heavy load across her shoulders. She and her brothers decided to help her… after initial hesitations. They were from a wealthy “prim and proper” family, and it felt shameful to walk close to such a tattered woman – especially when other church members caught up with them on the road. The eye balls that met them…

As they walked on, Amy recounted looking at a fountain that was along the road, and just then, she clearly heard a voice say,

Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”

Turning to see who was speaking, there was no one. But she knew it wasn’t her mind… she heard a voice – plain and clear.  Amy felt something new inside . Walking arm in arm with the woman, she was no longer embarrassed.

And here are her two resolutions from that encounter:

First, “she would no longer waste time on things that weren’t important in God’s eyes. When all the things she’d done in her life were finally judged by God, she wanted them to be found worthwhile. She wanted them to be seen as gold and silver, not hay and stubble.”

Secondly, “she would never again worry about what people thought of her. If what she was doing was pleasing to God, that would be enough for her. If other people, even other Christians, didn’t want to walk with beggars, that was their business, but Amy would walk with them, and she would walk proudly.”

2. Her courageous spirit

To live a significant life in this day and age when oppositions slap one from every angle, you need to be courageous. Amy exemplified courage at different times of her life.

From when she was in school, Amy could walk into the teacher or headmistress office and boldly tender her request. And she’ll walk away with head held high even if her request got turned down.  Other students filed in behind her as she cleared the way for them.

At the age of eighteen, Amy lost her father, after nursing him day and night for several weeks. Being the oldest child, she was suddenly pushed into adulthood – helping her mum cater for their home and younger siblings. She didn’t allow the loss of her Father at her teen age stifle the great life ahead of her.

During the period she organized meetings for some less privileged people called the shawlies , a time came when other church member tried to stop Amy from using the usual premises, the church, on the premise that those people could contaminate the environment with lice and dirt. Amy did not care what they thought. She drove on with God’s work. Since the day that voice spoke to her at the fountain, she hadn’t cared what anyone thought or said – as long as God is pleased.

3. Her love and empathy for the needy

Think about the most cherished people that ever lived. They’re not loved and remembered simply because of how much degrees or wealth or beauty they possessed. We talk about them because they touched someone’s life. And that was Amy.

Visiting a community one day, her eyes caught some young women who looked ragged, old and had shawls over there body. She learnt these were people as young as ten years who were subjected to hard labour in exchange for little pay.  

Amy couldn’t stop thinking about the shawlies, and slowly she struck a plan. She started holding meetings for the shawlie girls.

When she moved to another place, she quickly identified with a similar group of less privileged people and set up a meeting for them.

Up till the time she arrived India, where she did most of her work of service to the needy and humanity at large, Amy never closed her eyes to those in need. She was going to be kind because God had asked her to be kind to those He loved. Amy’s sisters called her new attitude – when she first started – “Amy’s enthusiasms.”

4. Her commitment to obeying God in all things:

Amy was a lady of, “yes Lord” even when the price seemed hard to pay.

And like anyone devoted to obeying God at all times, she wondered why following God wasn’t easier and why other Christians found it so hard to understand what she wanted to do. But other Christians’ not understanding wasn’t going stop her.

Before making any decision, she would always pray and ask for God’s leading. And once God says “Go”, no one and nothing will sway her. Even at one time, when she needed to leave her beloved family for the mission field in China, Amy didn’t allow sentiments stop her.

And looking at her commitment to living and speaking God’s word, Amy was steadfast.

Other Christians in the mission field learnt that Amy, after preaching, told the Buddhists to burn their idols. These Christians believed that Amy did not understand their culture and that there was nothing wrong with a Christian also having idols in the house. And telling Buddhists to burn theirs made it too difficult for them to become Christians. They others told Amy this, hoping she would give in, but she didn’t. She believed all idols had to go, and she would tell that to anyone who asked.

5. Her surrender to God’s will for her love life

Observing a sweet married couple around her at one time, Amy felt lonely.  And she wondered whether she ought to marry. As she thought about it, she feared growing old and being alone – without a husband and children. So one day, she went to a cave near Arima to pray about it. After several hours in the cave praying about how lonely she felt and asking God whether she should marry, she heard a voice speak and say, “None of those who trust Me shall be lonely.” Amy thanked God for His assurance and climbed out of the cave.

She had her answer.

She knew she would never marry or have children of her own. But God had promised her she would never be alone, either. And yes, with the hundreds of children and loved ones around her, Amy knew no loneliness.

Oh, but how she surrendered this treasured love life to God! Very challenging.

6. Her trust in God

In a meeting she attended with her friend, a phrase from God’s word hit Amy like a sharp ray of light. “We know you are able to keep us from falling….”  God can keep her from falling. Amy never forgot that. As she arrived one land and engrossed herself in God’s work, she held one thought on her mind: She would no longer confine herself to doing what she thought she could do; instead she’d trust God and see what He would do through her.

7. Her humility

A striking episode was noted during Amy’s work with the shawlies.

Someone had helped to put up a remarkable structure for their gatherings, and in January 2, 1889, it got officially opened.

Amy did not sit on the stage during the opening, preferring to sit in the audience with the shawlies. As usual, she wanted the spotlight not to be on her, but on what God had done.

And even when she relocated to England, working with another group of shawlies, she choose to live in the slum, where pests and rodents were her bedmates, every night.

We see other striking incidences of her humble heart when she was in the mission field.

While she was in Japan, one day, she went with another lady to share the gospel. She noticed the woman fixed her eyes on her and her clothing, having a hard time concentrating on what she was saying.

Suddenly, the old woman reached out and touched Amy’s hands. She motioned for Amy to take off her gloves, which she did. For the next few minutes the old woman studied the gloves, turning them over and over in her hands before trying them on. Amy and Misaki San never managed to get the old woman’s attention back on the gospel message they were sharing.
Afterward, Amy strode back to the Buxton house with a determined look on her face. She’d had enough of English clothing! If her English clothes distracted even one Japanese person from hearing the gospel message, then she didn’t want to wear them.

Amy identified with people, even when others felt it was derogatory to “break caste” and associate with the low class.

What a meek and lowly spirit… Like Jesus!

*****

All these shaped the Amy Carmichael we read about, who stormed the land of India, rescuing hundreds of girls from the Hindu shrines, built a family… a community that raised thousands of girls, women and boys in the ways of the Lord.

At the same time she lived was Mahatma Gandhi, who was just two years younger than Amy. Both of them had a vision for a different India, and both of them stood for many of the same things. Gandhi worked hard to break down the caste system and to educate women. But he worked for change through politics, while Amy worked for change through opening people’s hearts to God’s love and power.

You too have a place, a position, a platform from which you can transform the world.

It begins with an encounter… one that will shape you to be and fulfill God’s purpose for your life.

That encounter can be today… now… God is speaking to you. Listen!

Bibliography:

Amy Carmichael: Rescuer Of Precious Gems

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