I picked up a copy of “Shadow of the Almighty” from our church library today. It’s the biography of missionary Jim Elliot, written by his wife, Elizabeth. I’ve only read to page 14 so far, but already, I have something I want to share.
In the introduction, Elizabeth is reflecting on the idea of heroes. She recalls being with high school and college students and asking who their heroes were. The students first had to decide on a definition for hero, and then still struggled to say they whether they had any heroes or people they wanted to be “like”. She laments this, as compared to her own memories of many childhood heroes. After listing some of her own (Gideon, David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Hans the Hero of Haarlem, Florence Nightingale, and Abraham Lincoln), she then proceeds to reflect on a few who embodied Hebrews 13:7[i].
This one, about her neighbor, really struck me.
My next door neighbor, Ruth Richie, was another [hero]. To a ten-year-old girl, this fifteen-year-old was something of a goddess. She was first of all a ‘grown-up’ to me. She was also pretty, soft-spoken, feminine, and uncommonly kind to the shy and uncertain child next door. She was my heroine. I admired everything about her, wanted to do my hair like hers, and walk like her, talk like her, be like her.
Was this you? Were you this little girl (or little boy) who was simply fascinated by that older kid? I certainly remember when the 8th grade students came to our 1st or 2nd grade class to help with a school project. The girls seemed so grown and confident. I always looked for them in the hallways after that. And I remember finding their faces in church for years afterwards.
We can never underestimate the influence we have on the next generation. Who are you reaching? Who are you influencing? If no one intentionally, know that young boys and girls are still looking for examples of how to live and do and be. They are looking as they try to develop strength and character.
The world has plenty of examples to show them.
What are you modeling to our young people? Are you a source of what is good and holy and set apart? Are you encouraging, patient, and ready to offer grace? Are you willing to spend time with them and simply acknowledge them?
We aren’t perfect examples, by any means, but are we striving towards and fixed upon Jesus? Can we offer a model of how to follow Jesus as Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”?[ii]
Let’s talk about heroes. Ask your kids. Ask your neighbor’s kids. Your nieces and nephews and cousins and grand-kids.
Who is your hero?
[i] Remember your leaders, those who first spoke God’s message to you; and reflecting upon the outcome of their life and work, follow the example of their faith
[ii] 1 Corinthians 11:1