Lars and Elisabeth’s Love Story

The day after Elisabeth Elliot’s second husband, who was a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, passed away, Lars Gren, a student at Gordon-Conwell, moved into her home as her second boarder. (See my first blog post for more details on that.) Lars lived there for 2 years, but after the first year, his feelings toward Elisabeth started to change. He told me, “I was eyeballing her a little bit differently than just as a landlady, and she didn’t think I knew that she knew. But by the end of the second year, she knew that I knew that she knew!” So one morning as she was standing at the kitchen sink doing the dishes and he was making something to eat, backs to each other, she told him that he needed to find another place to live. He agreed—although he said his blood pressure sky-rocketed!—and then he went on about his day.

When Lars returned home later that night, he asked to see Elisabeth: “We sat down, and I said: ‘You have every right to ask me to leave. There’s no problem in that, but I don’t appreciate the way you did it. … I’m not some kid coming out of high school here. I’ve been around a little bit; I’ve been in business. We do things in a more gracious manner.’ Well, she just listened nicely and politely and thanked me for what I had to say. That was the end of it—there was no discussion.”*

Lars moved out, but he kept pursuing Elisabeth, and they ended up spending quite a bit of time together.  When I asked Lars why Elisabeth spent so much time with him knowing his intentions toward her, he said it was because she was sure he couldn’t possibly be serious about her. (Elisabeth was in her late 40s at this point and had already been married twice, and Lars was 9 years younger and had never been married.) But Lars stuck around, and the Lord started working on Elisabeth’s heart.

In the Family Life Today interview (see footnote*), Elisabeth said that she was absolutely closed off to the idea of a third marriage until Lars said something to her in the living room one day that changed her perception of him completely. According to Elisabeth (Lars doesn’t remember this), he said, “I would like to be the one building the fences around you, and I want to stand on all sides.”*

Shortly after Lars’ bold declaration, God convicted Elisabeth. In her own words, she said,

“I was convicted by the fact that God was saying to me: ‘You have not asked Me one thing about this. You just made up your mind that you were going to stay single the rest of your life.’ Well, then I had to get down on my knees and repent and say: ‘Well, you know, Lord, I want to do what You want me to do,’ and ‘How could I possibly have failed to, at least, mention this in prayer?’ I then opened my Bible, and to my utter astonishment—

Well, I have to say, before I tell you that, that I was constantly comparing Jim Elliot to Addison Leach. Jim could do a lot of things Add couldn’t do; Add could do things Jim couldn’t do. Lars could do a lot of things that Add and Jim couldn’t do—I was making these odious comparisons. I opened my Bible and, lo and behold, it was staring me in the face: ‘Men have different gifts, but it is the same Lord who accomplishes His purposes through them all.’”

— *

Through prayer, Scripture, and the counsel of many trusted friends and advisers, Elisabeth opened her heart to Lars and a third marriage.

After four years of knowing each other, Lars and Elisabeth married. I asked Lars if he formally proposed to Elisabeth, getting down on one knee, pouring his heart out to her and so forth, and he started laughing and said, “No, no, it was horrible!” Come to find out, it wasn’t that horrible, but he didn’t ask her to marry him. Instead, he simply told her, “I want you to be my wife.”* She told him she’d pray about it, and two weeks later she sent him a letter accepting his proposal. (A letter! I just can’t get over how “Elisabeth Elliot” that feels!) She accepted his proposal in July, and they got married the following December.

Something else Lars told me that had the “Elisabeth Elliot feel” was that Elisabeth gave Lars her second husband’s wedding ring to wear as his own! Lars explained, “It was a nice, flat ring on top with my initials on it—ELG. I thought it looked familiar, but I didn’t think anything of it. I don’t know how it came about—whether I asked her or not—but come to find out it was Add’s ring. So it had had AHL on it.” It turns out, Elisabeth had Add’s initials shaved down and Lars’ initials engraved over them. Lars told Elisabeth he wished she would have asked him before doing that, because he would have told her to leave Add’s initials. “What a great conversation piece,” he said to me, laughing. “If I’m sitting at a table and someone sees my ring and says, ‘AHL—what does that stand for?’ I could say, ‘Oh, that’s my wife’s second husband.'”

Shortly after Lars and Elisabeth married, they moved to Atlanta so Lars could do a chaplaincy program in Milledgeville, Georgia. He was commuting to Milledgeville during the week, and she traveled on the weekends for speaking engagements. One weekend he decided to travel to one of her speaking engagements in Virginia, and he told her he’d bring some of her books to sell, which no one had ever done before. He wasn’t prepared for how well it was going to go: “I had no idea what to expect,” he told me. “I had some $5s, some $10s, and some change in my pockets, and I didn’t have anything to put the money in, so I wound up putting it in 4 or 5 coffee cups in a box under the table!” When Lars saw how eager women were to buy her books, he talked with Elisabeth, and they decided that he would travel with her to all of her speaking engagements and sell her books. “It became my job,” Lars said. “I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do.” The rest is history!

Source: Lars and Elisabeth’s Love Story — Believing at Midnight