The Gift of Biographies
A few weeks ago, during our sheltering in place mandate, I was talking with one of my kids about some of the hardships and losses that have come with this pandemic. In our conversation, the kid especially talked about a few different biographies that have come to mind and have been helpful to give perspective and reframe thinking during these hard times.
The truth is pandemic or no pandemic, one day our children will suffer. One day our children will have an opportunity to be brave. One day our children may be faced with the choices of standing up for Jesus or being liked, being persecuted for Jesus or taking an easier way out, doing a hard thing for Jesus or doing what is easy and blending in with the crowd.
Biographies are powerful! Just as reading biographies helped my child put this pandemic into perspective, reading biographies gives us perspective, encourages us in boldness, grows our perseverance, and inspires us in obedience in both great and small things.
Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." When we know of great leaders that follow the Word and serve Christ by faith, we are to remember them and imitate them. What a better way than to read and learn more of their stories! Biographies--and stories of others' faith--are powerful!
When kids read stories of others who suffered, yet used their suffering to glorify the Lord or as a platform to share about their hope in Christ, they might be more inclined to look for hope in Christ in their own suffering and to use their suffering to glorify the Lord. Suffering is HARD, but our suffering can be powerful. In times of suffering, when the pain is real, grief is strong, and the suffering is blaring, we do not easily know what to do with all the emotions. But, IF, in other times we have learned from others and read of how others suffer well, we may remember, be inspired, and have hope in the midst of our hardest days. Of course, reading biographies does not guarantee how any of us will suffer, but I do think it will be helpful and certainly not harmful.
People have written stories and remember great leaders that have gone before us...not because these individuals wanted a book written about them, not because they wanted to be famous, not because they wanted to be remembered...but because they desired to do what is right and because they walked in obedience to Jesus. In fact, most people that biographies are written about (at least these that I am recommending) never ever set out to make a name for themselves. They were simply being obedient and doing the right thing. I want for myself and my kids to, likewise, walk in obedience and to walk by faith.
John Piper highlights another specific reason to read biographies. He says, "Biographies have served as much as any other human force in my life to overcome the inertia of mediocrity." We do not want to be mediocre! He especially encourages pastors to read biographies in this post.
Parents can help lay a great foundation for their kids when they encourage them to read biographies, read biographies aloud with them, or share about others' lives. Reading biographies can do the same for adults too! These foundations help us and our kids suffer well, make meaning of suffering and tragedy, and inspire our kids to persevere, walk in obedience, and live a life on purpose!
Biographies are a gift for our faith!
HOW to read Biographies:
This book is a very easy place to start to get into biographies--especially for young children. You can read each biography in about 2 minutes. If you have older kids, this is still a good place to start if you are just now introducing biographies to them. They can learn about people briefly instead of being overwhelmed by a longer book. They might be able to chose to read a longer book after you introduce some of these people to them. Also, many days after we read these little nuggets, our curiosity is sparked, and we do a quick google search to learn a little more. We also like to watch quick youTube documentaries or stories to hear more. So, don't judge a book by its cover or age category--there are numerous ways you can use this book to dive into learning about people's lives. Here are a few other ideas:
Read a brief story as a family together daily.
Read a brief story a certain day of the week and use the other days to learn more about a person through videos, longer books, or the internet.
Have kids read harder books as part of a reading challenge--reward them for it!
Read a biography together and watch a longer documentary or movie afterward.
A fun surprise for our family!
When we started our study on Revelation a few weeks ago (we are still working through), we experienced such a "coincidence" the beginning of the week. Earlier Monday morning, we read about Fanny Crosby, a blind lady that wrote so many great hymns. As we listened to David Platt's sermon that afternoon, he talked about Fanny Crosby and her story as he talked about how John was given the task to write what he saw.
He also talked about Joni Eareckson Tada and her wheelchair in a different point of the sermon. On Tuesday, the next day, when we opened up our brief biography book, the next one was on Joni Earckson Tada. We also watched a short documentary on her story that day, and it was very moving for my kids to learn about her accident as a teenager, the way her sister "saved her life," and to see the way Joni has used her story and her "wheelchair" for God's glory for so many years.
When things are timed so perfectly like that, I am amazed cause I could not even had planned how these "mini biographies" would line us with a sermon on Revelation, but how perfect of our Lord to line that up!
Our family all talked about our favorite biographies last week, and here is our top ten list (they are not in any particular order--especially because each of us has a different vote):
Eric Liddel - Runner, Sports, Olympian, glorified God with his talent
Amy Carmichael - single woman, helped children, lived in India, missionary
Corrie ten Boom - concentration camp, faithful to God, helped others
Gladys Alyward - China, hard time getting there, adopted/helped kids, hard trips
Adoniram Judson - missionary, lost wife & children, perseverance, sickness
Jim Elliott - jungle pilot, martyred, his story is part of my fuel for missions from college
Malala - different from a biography, but her story is powerful. such a brave, young woman that did a hard thing and suffered but brought great change!
John Perkins - not a biography, but reading his story in The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb had a powerful effect on me!
Lottie Moon - her legacy impacts our family so incredibly much!
Nate Saint - jungle pilot, martyred, documentary is so go--especially what their families did after their lives
***A special note about the Christian Heroes Then and Now Series (They are about missionary biographies.): These books are written for kids, but I think they are so readable and good. Because the language is simpler, these books are great for adults that want to read about the lives of others but not want to give the time it takes to bigger books with more difficult language. Gray and I have read a lot of these biographies and gleaned so much from them. I highly recommend them for adults just as much for younger readers.
There are SO many others! But these are some of our family favorites so far. Many of them have movies and documentaries to watch after reading them.
Though I have not read this book, I have it on my list to read one day, and I do recommend it: 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy.
Do you have any recommendations on biographies? Please do send them my way: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions or would like more information, I am glad to explain more in depth some of the ways we have used this or they have impacted us personally in email correspondence.