"Courage is not simply one of the virtues,
but the form of every virtue at the testing point..."
C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
“We are what we read,” David McCullough said.
“We get our ideas from what we read. So it’s extremely important when we try to understand the past, and the characters of the past,
to not only read what they wrote, but to read what they read.”
Pull up a chair and let's sip our tea together in our virtual Sunday tea party. Okay, I actually have a morning cup of coffee nearby as I write but we can still share my recent ponderings. :)
This past week, I read an article in a magazine given to me by a friend, one of the last articles Chuck Colson wrote before his death. It is an excellent treatise called Can Virtue Be Taught.
While the entire article talked about developing virtue and character in our children as they grow, it was the section about providing good role models and heroes from history which set me thinking for I've heard Colson talk about the importance of good literature, biography, etc. in the home for years.
So much of what is being shown on TV and other media reflect not only poor values but is often absolutely defiling... no wonder children who have grown up with a steady diet of such media reflect low values. I'm also sorry to say many books written today are also (at the least) what Charlotte Mason called "twaddle".
However, my friend, there is pure gold on those bookshelves... biography, autobiography, and even novels which portray excellent Christian values. I know from experience as most of my mentors have taught me from the written word, some living centuries before I was born.
My oldest sister refuses to read biography, she feels it is more fiction than the modern novels she prefers. Of course, all books... including biography and autobiography... are written from the writer's perspective but that doesn't mean we shouldn't read them.
Instead, sometimes I enjoy reading more than one book about a person... such as the books about Jonathan Edwards I've been reading (interrupted by wedding gotta do's). I plan to write an entire post about those books as soon as I finish reading them.
But often it was in the reading of an autobiography that I began to understand what made a person do the things they did, how they were thinking and reflecting throughout life which helped me learn more about the individual (or group).
It is always important to remind our children as they read biography (as in real life) that there are no perfect people. Even our greatest heroes of the faith were imperfect and flawed individuals but that doesn't make it any less important to read the stories of Old and New Testament heroes to our children.
How important for them to know that if God can use a murderer like Saul (who became Saint Paul), an adulterer and murderer such as King David, liars in the lineage of Abraham and his sons, drunks and prostitutes and those filled with the sin of pride... then He can use us. Of course, we also give them the Perfect Hero... Jesus.
Once we give them the foundation of the Bible, we make available books which introduce them to those whose lives reflected the Biblical values... never perfectly, of course... but steady by steady and precept upon precept... their journey brought glory to God.
I have enjoyed reading about Bonhoeffer, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, George Mueller, Luther, Augustine, Wilberforce, Solzhenitsyn, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Adams, Corrie Ten Boom, Mother Theresa, St. Francis of Assisi... just to name a very few.
Some favorite titles are The Tapestry (Francis & Edith Schaeffer), Wonder o' the Wind (Keller), Surprised By Joy (Lewis), and at least one I have heard is good but is in my "To Be Read" stack called A Passion for the Impossible (Lilias Trotter).
There are Confessions by Augustine, Gifted Hands by Ben Carson, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden, Walking From East to West by Ravi Zacharias,... once again just to name a very, very few in a lifetime of reading.
There will be heroes who are not necessarily of our faith (they may be but are not known for their faith) but can teach our children the importance of endurance, honesty, courage, integrity, kindness, honor, etc. such as Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, the Wright Brothers, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and lots more.
Some book titles in this category I've enjoyed are... My Life by Golda Meir, Madam Curie by Eve Curie, Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L'amour, the Landmark books for young people (vintage but still excellent), John Adams and 1776 and Truman and Mornings on Horseback (Theodore Roosevelt) all by David McCullough... once again to name but a few.
I should mention the power of good fiction, too. Authors for millennia have given us powerful heroes in the form of fiction, perhaps easier to mold into a reflection of virtue than real people. :)
When the former Soviet Union had outlawed Bibles and religious books, there are reports of people coming to know Christ as Savior through novels such as The Brother's Karamazov by Dostoevsky.
My life has been greatly enhanced by reading novels about inspiring people and/or events. For instance, Exodus by Leon Uris is one of my all time favorite novels... the story of the Jews leaving post WWII Europe and founding the State of Israel.
Other novels of profound impact to my life have been... Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, the Narnia books by Lewis, The Space Trilogy also by Lewis, This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti (completely changed the way I looked at spiritual warfare), A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Madeleine had a way of helping me think outside the box), and about a gazillion more books.
There are writers whose many fiction books have inspired me to a further Christian walk such as Elizabeth Goudge (breathtakingly beautiful writing) and Jan Karon (I mean, really... I want to attend Father Tim's church!).
I know I risk leaving out a lot of authors and titles people would find even more important as well as including some authors which may shock a few... but my list is very personal and reflects the written words which have taught me true virtues.
God wrote us a Book and told us a Story and involves us in that Story even today. It should come as no surprise that we can absorb much through words by Him, through Him, and about His virtues. :)
Picture: Time for Reading by Judy Gibson