Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Having heroes is a positive approach to life. When our children were born Lois and I gave them all names of those we wanted them to follow. Each one was given a Bible name (Jeremiah, Rachel, Joel, Sarah) as our attempt to direct them to these role models whose stories God preserved. They were not perfect people, but part of the example of their lives is in seeing how they dealt with disappointment, discouragement, and their own sin. We also gave our children middle family names after some living relative that could perhaps become a present illustrative model. These individuals also have faults, but it was hoped that the redeeming value of their character would be attractive and helpful.
All of our children have now grown up and they have chosen for themselves the heroes and mentors whose examples they want to follow. I pray that they have chosen well and that their own character evidences their wise choices. The fact is that all of us choose those we look up to as role models. Sometimes these change as we mature, especially if it seems that our heroes don’t mature and end up discrediting themselves.
I want to take this article to acknowledge one of my enduring heroes. He is a man I have never met but whose life and writings have never disappointed me. I am referring to the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter.
My children have teased me over the years for erecting a shrine to him. I disagree with their word but acknowledge that he does have a prominent place on my bookshelves. I have almost every book that he wrote, and there are a lot of them. I have twenty-five by him and nine by others about him. And beyond having my own hardcover copies on display I have also read them all. This includes the one he wrote on fly fishing (An Outdoor Journal: Adventures and Reflections, Bantam, 1988) which I have absolutely no interest in since I don’t fish. I also have his book of poetry (Always a Reckoning and Other Poems, Random House, 1995) and his attempt at writing fiction (The Hornet’s Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War, Simon & Schuster, 2003). I didn’t think that either of those were particularly good. But I have them and I read them.
I have also purchased and given away several of his books as personal gifts. Some I gave to family members who I thought could identify with his small-town upbringing (An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood, Simon & Schuster, 2001). I gave some folk a copy of his book on Christian faith in order to encourage them to see that not all Democrats are godless reprobates (Living Faith, Random House, 1996). And to folk who have seemed to struggle with the state of recent presidential office holders I have given a copy of one of his books as a gesture of hope that our country might one day again elect someone of notable Christian character.
I have read some of his books more than once and in fact one of them is a part of my daily readings. I would have to say it is my favorite of his and is entitled “Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations” (Zondervan, 2011). These are not excerpts from his other writings but instead are based on the Sunday School lessons that he taught over the years from 1977 to 2011. These lessons are all connected to a Scripture verse and may include an explanation of the text or an illustration of its application. Each one concludes with a brief prayer. These lessons demonstrate to me how vital it is to have an everyday Christian faith that informs and directs the decisions we make in life. This is true regardless of what role we have or what age we are.
Through the years I have written to Jimmy Carter a few times. He has always responded with a hand-written note often jotted on the front of my letter to him. With the news this last month of him retiring to his home with Hospice care provided and his family around him, I thought I would post my appreciation of him as one of my primary heroes with the hope that his legacy of faith and practice will continue. He has been my political hero since the day I voted for him back in 1976. I still find his example to be both politically and spiritually compelling. May God give you such heroes who help you follow Jesus our Lord.
See you in Worship.