Ellen ... Beyond the Mirror
By the time you read this article, the manuscript for my new book, Ellen White for Teens, will be resting in the capable editorial hands of Pacific Press. I hope. In the meantime, however, I am immersed in the Spirit of Prophecy. The book seeks to introduce, and in some cases re-introduce, the dear lady to people who may not be fans — either because they don’t know about her or they have been harassed by people who know too much about her.
Due to my saturation of “SOP” stories, I thought I would share a little something I came across in my research that struck me as a “warm fuzzy” orchestrated by God to help a little girl struggling with her view of God — and her view of herself.
As most avid Ellen readers know, when she was 9 years old, a classmate chucked a rock at her face. After being struck with the stone, Ellen faded in and out of consciousness as she was brought to a local store for help. Ellen, despite suffering from concussion at the time, remembers, “My garments were covered with blood, which was pouring from my nose and streaming over the floor.”1
She even refused a ride home for fear of bleeding all over the owner’s carriage.
During recovery she agonized over many things — whether she would live, the state of her soul, and family friends who would check in and offer sentiments such as “what a pity,” “she’s ruined” and “I don’t recognize her.”2 These words stung, and Ellen made the decision to ask for a mirror to see her reflection.
What she saw shocked her. The shattered bones in her nose and bruises seemed to change every feature of her face. She couldn’t recognize the face looking back at her — and she didn’t want to live. Ellen was also losing weight and, in her words, was “reduced to a skeleton.”
It was this fractured little figure that would greet Robert Harmon, as he returned from a trip to Georgia. Robert had no idea what had befallen his youngest daughter. Upon his arrival home, all the Harmon kids raced into his arms — except Ellen. Robert looked around the room and asked where his daughter was.
In that moment, Ellen “was forced to learn the bitter lesson that our personal appearance often makes a difference in the treatment we receive from our companions.” Robert’s wife pointed to a little person timidly shrinking back from what should have been a joyful reunion.
“Is … is that my little Ellen?”
Her own father had failed to recognize her — and it broke her heart.
Skip ahead five years (and a dozen dark nights of the soul), and we find a 14-year-old Ellen on summer vacation with her family — at the Methodist camp meeting 16 miles away in Buxton. While normally this kind of family vacation pales in comparison with Disney World — for the spiritually drowning Ellen, this was exactly what she needed.
During a sermon on the book of Esther (where the queen approaches the king hoping to see the scepter of approval), Ellen connected with the words, “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:6). The speaker used these words to encourage confidence in those scared to approach Jesus.
Ellen also heard him say that waiting to make yourself a better person before coming to Jesus was a “fatal mistake.” He even called out as a mistake that people had to make “some wonderful effort” in order to receive God’s forgiveness.
The only thing hindering Ellen from having her view of God erupting in sparkling colors of grace and love was the lack of “second blessing” Methodism taught. This was the idea that a person had to have some electrifying spiritual rush after they gave their heart to God — which meant they had been “sanctified” or made perfect.
Without that experience she didn’t dare think Jesus accepted her. Yet she went forward anyway, with Esther’s words becoming her own prayer. As she did, she felt her troubles vanish — which scared her — and she tried to pick them back up again.
Some people don’t feel like they are spiritual unless they are “burdened.” Ellen went so far as to think she had no right to feel joy and happiness. Jesus seemed very near to Ellen in that moment — suddenly she realized instead of withholding her sadness, confusion and troubles from Him, she could hand them over and He would take them. Finally she felt assured of Jesus’ love towards people who don’t feel so good about how their life has been going.
One of the ladies at the meeting saw Ellen praying and asked her if she had found Jesus. Before she could answer, the woman said, “Yes, indeed you have! His peace is with you, I see it in your face!” There had been a time when her own earthly father had not recognized her face, and it was devastating — now her face was recognized by a stranger as shining with the love of her heavenly Father, and it was liberating.