Unruly Affections

The following quotation comes from Elisabeth Elliot’s book Passion and Purity (Revell, 2002), pp. 33-34. Her writing has greatly influenced my life, even as a grown married woman. I truly wish someone had introduced me to her works when I was a teenager, but I am learning that it is never too late to incorporate the principles she teaches: namely, that passion is not sinful and purity is not prudish. Nor are they mutually exclusive. You can have both.


The Book of Common Prayer contains “collects,” which are short prayers comprising ideas gathered or “collected” from the day’s reading. The one for the fifth Sunday in Lent is this:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I had been reading my Bible, I believe, quite faithfully, nearly every day through high school and college…. It took no profound understanding of it to know that I did not begin to measure up to its standards. As I grew into womanhood and began to learn what was in my heart I saw very clearly that, of all things difficult to rule, none were more so than my will and affections. They were unruly in the extreme, as the diary entries attest.

Bringing anything at all into order—a messy room, a wild horse, a recalcitrant child—involves some expenditure. Time and energy at least are required. Perhaps even labor, toil, sacrifice, and pain. The answer to the above prayer—the bringing of our unruly wills and affections into order—will cost us something.

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