I tell this story regularly, so I apologize but I love the story. I tell it again now because we need to tell our stories and pass them down. The things we know, the family history we have, needs to be told. I am also now one of the few who know THIS particular story. This coming Sunday we honor all of the saints, and so, here is a “saint” I want to honor.
The tiny little girl was called “Lizzy”, her full name was “Elizabeth”. She belonged to a mother and father who, for reasons unknown, found themselves in terrible debt. In the days when Lizzy was born debts were settled privately, out of court, in ways that many of us today would find unenlightened and repulsive. It was, however the way things were done then. Some debts were paid through servitude. As it was, little Lizzy was given up by her parents as payment to a debt owed to another family. She was, before she was one-year-old, a bond-slave; given to serve out her life as a servant to a family that was not her own so the debt of her parents could be paid.
The Moore family, who received Lizzy, were (thankfully) gracious and kind, beneficent and practical. Lizzy grew up on hard farm work, but so did the Moore children. All indications were that she was treated well, not poorly, and that the family loved her. However, she wasn’t the same as the children she was raised beside…she was an outsider. The Moores were not her parents, and in fact no more was ever heard of her biological parents after they gave Lizzy to the Moore family. She was, at that point not the member of any family.
But Lizzy discovered someone who DID think she belonged…if to no one else, to him and his heart. He fell in love with the teenaged girl who worked for the Moore family and lived in their home. Before she came of age, he asked for her hand in marriage.
And here we are at the crossroads of this story, for Mr. Moore needed to agree upon the marriage…not as Lizzy’s father, but as her owner. If he didn’t believe the original debt had been sufficiently paid, he would not let her go. Up to this point, the date of her 18th birthday, she had no life but what she lived vicariously through the family who raised her. She didn’t even have a last name, she was only Elizabeth Idella; “Lizzy”. She had no property, owned nothing…but here was a chance.
The beautiful part of the story is that the Moores agreed to the marriage, finding the boy agreeable and a suitable match. On Lizzy’s 18th birthday the Moore family gave her 3 wonderful gifts: a bedroom suite of furniture, her freedom, and their name…a home, wings, and a name. No longer would she be known as the “girl who worked for the Moores”, she left for her wedding as Elizabeth Idella…Moore.
I love this story for two reasons.
FIRST: it is a true story which reflects what happens to any of us who accept the gift of life and redemption of debt. We are all in debt, but God sets us free, He gives us a home to take care of…and then He gives us His name. He does this not because of who WE are but because of who HE is. He gives to us because it is in His nature to give, to love, to set free and to embrace us. How can we walk away from that and not be thankful every day?
SECOND: I love this story is because Lizzy and her husband had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth (so to carry the name of her mother, the bond-slave set free). Mary Elizabeth married and had a daughter named, Routh Elizabeth…also named after the bond-slave grandmother. Routh Elizabeth also married. She and her husband Troy had a daughter and they named her Margery Elizabeth, once again never forgetting the story of the now great-grand-mother who was a bond-slave set free. And, as you’ve probably guessed, or remembered from my telling of this story before, Margery Elizabeth married a young soldier named, Tom…and they had a son named Rick.
I am thankful today for my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Idella Moore…who lived her childhood out as a slave, paying a debt she herself did not incur, and was given a home, wings and a name…so that I could have the same. I am also thankful that even though we’ve never met, she has taught be about our Heavenly Father…who also give me A Home, Wings & A Name…He paid my debt and so, I belong, I am free, and I am His.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”