*** Friendly Caution: Dani is steppin' up on the old soap box. ***
but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
Someone once said, "you are who you will be one year from now, except for the people you meet and the books you read." I completely agree, other than perhaps adding "the things you watch" because TV and movies play a big roll in our culture as well.
Often, when I meet someone, I eventually get around to asking them if they like to read. It's probably because I've always loved to read, from my earliest childhood, so when I meet a fellow bookworm I feel the little warm fuzzies coming on and I settle down for a happy talk about favorite books, authors and genres. (Spell check just caught me spelling "genres" as "gonres". Way to prove my literacy, eh?) When a person tells me that they do not enjoy reading, I feel a genuine sympathy for them. Perhaps it's not something they can help; I wouldn't know. But I do think that by missing out on the world of books they are missing out on a great treasure. I don't by ANY means even pretend to be a GREAT reader. I know many people who read deeper books, and many people who read a greater quantity of books. But I try, and I hope to improve with time. And here is one of the greatest reasons why I think reading (and specifically biographical reading) is so important:
Through books, I have met countless men and women who I otherwise would never have known existed. I have kept company with the likes of Patrick Henry, John Eldredge, King David, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Charmichael, C.S. Lewis, John and Betty Stam, Jesus Christ, George Washington, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Oswald Chambers, Brother Yun, Randy Alcorn, and Dr. Seuss. (*cough!* That last one was a joke, in case you're wondering.) Years ago I forced myself to start reading less "fluff" and concentrating more on deeper reads; books that made me think, or introduced me to men and women much greater than I'll ever be. I did not enjoy such reading at first, but as time went on I developed a hunger for it. I wanted to be bettered by the books I read instead of merely entertained by them. It is a way to "walk with wise men", as the Proverb says, and I'm deeply blessed and grateful for how God has changed my life through them.
I believe with all my heart that those who neglect to read after Godly men and women from the past or present will miss out on a great deal of spiritual character that they might have had the chance to cultivate.
For example, it wasn't until I "met" Jim Elliot through his journals that it really occurred to me what a life lived to the hilt for God's glory was all about. For some reason, it was his life in particular that really struck the chord for me. I saw through his journals the inner workings of a man close to my age (younger than me now, in some of his entries!) who did not write pious thoughts to be admired or to teach others, but as a way of releasing the deep gush of spiritual passion that welled inside his heart. In his blunt, blundering way he wrestles and romanticizes and cries and exults on these pages, and refused to settle for anything less in his life than full surrender and delight in God. Had I not read this book, I would not have known him. And my own heart would probably never have been pricked by what I LACK in comparison to him. And this is just one book among a few million.
Today I was thinking about a friend of mine. I was praying for this person and ...well, sorta worrying about them, to be honest. And I thought that, if only this person would read some good biographies, I think perhaps they'd be drawn above who they are now to a higher plane of spiritual awareness and desire. Realizing, of course that the Bible is the #1 Book to change anyone's life and purify the soul, I think that adding some study of the lives of great Christians would give a "shove", a practical and applicable eye-opener.
In closing, I will try to say this concisely: Choose to walk with great men, and they will rub off on you. Choose to walk with mediocre men, and that is who you will become. By default, we tend to "compare ourselves by ourselves"... look at those around us to gauge who we ourselves should be. I challenge you, and I challenge myself, to begin more actively searching for great men and women who we will study and pattern our lives after. Men and women who will shame us with their passion and dedication and heart for God. I guarantee that a year from now, we will be changed for the better.
(Jim ElliotAnd if you'reJim Elliotlooking around for someoneJim Elliotto start studying, I'll doJim Elliota bit of research and tryJim Elliotto think of a recommendationJim Elliot.)