Elisabeth Elliot was one of a short list of Christian writers who influenced my life as a young believer. Also on that list were Ruth Bell Graham, Edith Schaeffer, and Corrie ten Boom, all women who grew up in and around ministry of some sort, all of who knew the Word of God backwards and forwards and communicated in a no-nonsense, often witty style.
But today, the publishing industry is different. I'm sure I don't have to point out that there are just so many books. SO many. In fact, when I wrote Lost and Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace, I lamented often to those who would listen throughout its publishing journey, "Who is going to read it? There are a billion and five books competing for the same attention."
Today, publishers want to know you have a platform. You are probably well aware of what that means, but in case you aren't super sure, Christian publishing veteran Michael Hyatt wrote a whole book on it. A platform means you are known, have a following, have an online presence, have some sort of established public life, even if your "public" is in a small niche.
It's not enough to know God's Word, communicate well, and write something compelling enough to be read. Today you must be someone, know someone, or personify a marketable image.
A Marketable Image
Let's talk about that last one. I began to notice a trend a few years back. Suddenly, that beachy, boho Californian look I know well from actually living in California splashed its way across the marketing that arrived in my inbox. Calligraphy, hand drawn florals and woodland scenes, succulents, beautiful young women with wand-hewn curls and long sweaters ― this was rapidly becoming the mark of current Christianity for women.
Know where my mind went? "YIPES. I can't compete with that." I'm a 40-something mom of 8 who jokes with my husband that my less-than-perky breasts are "working breasts". That's right. My body has housed and served 8 humans, and on the other end of that, there is collateral damage.
I'm not a hipster. I'm Generation X. I've got a recent history of making my kids listen to Bohemian Rhapsody and Billy Joel. I mention passé Christian parenting standards of back-in-the-day like The Donut Man to young moms and they stare at me like I'm growing nose hairs out my eyeballs.
And I begin to doubt what God has clearly asked me to do.
Because of marketing and platforms and hipster sensibilities, this seasoned mom who's been through the fire of brain-damage-inducing viruses, special needs parenting, midnight feedings, 15 years of pregnancies, car accidents, life-altering septic shock, 26 years of marriage to the same man, a child's mental illness diagnosis, ministry, and 20 years of homeschooling, feels inadequate to impart what God is asking her to impart.
I Daresay, Elisabeth Elliot Would Not Get a Book Deal in 2017
If Elisabeth Elliot had handed Through Gates of Splendor to a publisher in 2017, I daresay she would have been turned down. Repeatedly. What is marketable about a missionary woman who had an, albeit interesting, experience? Elisabeth wasn't unattractive by any means, but she wasn't hip.
She also wrote hard truths. She wrote what she knew God was asking of her, and that was her priority.
A Challenge to Read the Unmarketable
I admit, I’ve fallen for it too. The beautiful, the shiny, the modern, the hip, the sparkly. Those who can draw a crowd, who have a big name, and who everybody is buzzing about.
Ah, but there is so much to be gleaned from women the world would deem "unmarketable". The woman with the insight to mine truths that challenge us and blow our faith up and undo us and bring us back to a stronger, deeper, more beautiful reliance on Christ, but who perhaps is so introverted, the words on the page are her best marketing attempt. Or perhaps she's physically unattractive. Or not trendy. Or buried in a life of anonymity, platformless and without the know-how and connections to make it happen.
Let's remember that her worth is far above rubies, a Scriptural reference to how God sees us as His children, as women reflecting His light and living His truth. Otherwise, we might miss gems like this one:
So may I lead the charge and encourage us all to perk our ears up and listen to the unmarketable? Who has God placed in your path ― in your church, at work, in your home ― that seems so very unmarketable for a modern world? Who has quiet faith and resolve hidden in moments of conversation and words, just for you? Pursue that woman. Ask her to lunch. Tell her you want to know where she's been, because likely, that's where you're going. Probe her to tell you what God has done, how she's learned to trust, and how she has made it through the toughest trials of her life.
Those words will linger and minister to you, no matter the next trend to come along.
Who are Elisabeth Elliot, Ruth Bell Graham, Edith Schaeffer, and Corrie ten Boom?
The Books That Helped to Shape My Faith
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