Anne Sweet Ortlund, 1923-2013


Last night my dear mom was released from this life into the gracious presence of God.  I can hardly believe I am typing these words.  It seems unreal.  I can’t quite absorb it.  But it is real, and it is not horrible but wonderful.

It is wonderful because the living God made her forever his own through Christ.  Yesterday she was in this world, vulnerable and weak.  Today she is with her Lord, safe and mighty and happy.  I am grateful beyond all expression.

My mom’s homegoing is, for me, both a personal loss and the end of an era.  Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” of World War II stalwarts were truly great.  The Christians among them were the greatest.  They were the generation discipled by J. Gresham Machen, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Henrietta Mears and others.  They then became the generation of Bill and Vonette Bright, Billy and Ruth Graham, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Ray and Anne Ortlund and many others.  They grew up during the Great Depression, with little money.  The churches had been hijacked by theological liberalism.  But these amazing Christians took what little they had and by faith parlayed it into great churches and seminaries and books and mission agencies and so forth.  By the end of their journey, they had greatly advanced the cause of Christ.  And they handed down to my generation a magnificent platform for yet further gospel advance.  Oh, how I respect them!

What was their secret?  I know what it was.  I saw it in my mom every day of her life.  Here is a poem she wrote for my dad, entitled “Sonnet For Just Us,” about their young romance at the University of Redlands:

“I want to train for mission work,” you say.
“That’s what I’m praying for,” I answer you.
The rows of lights down Colton Avenue
Make buttons for its coat of evening grey.
“I hope for untried fields to conquer, Ray.”
And you reply, “That’s just what I want, too.”
Our talk is cool and unexcited through
The hum of leaves and crickets far away.
But a shining thought, a trembling, blazing thing
Hangs over us unspoken, shimmering.
Because of it your hand is warm on mine,
And all the world seems challenging and fine:
“Before us lands of sin-sick millions lie;
Oh, why not go together, you and I?”

Now that’s how to fall in love!  And the secret to their greatness is obvious.  Deep in their hearts was one controlling passion: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  Their romance was for Christ.  Their everything was for Christ.  And that way of living always has world-changing impact, because Christ himself is powerfully present in it.

Now it’s our turn to live with this same all-out passion for the greater glory of Christ.  And we don’t have much time.