The Most Influential Book of My Life
"One day," I said, "when I was nearly five years of age, my mother banished me to my bedroom because I had done something bad. What my mother didn't know—and I never told her—was that being sent to my room was hardly a punishment. It was actually a gift. I was an introvert—even at the age of 5—and my room was a safe and quiet place where I could explore my interior world without the intrusion of extroverts who, like my mother, often trespassed on my treasured privacy.
"Once in my room," I told the audience, "I began rummaging through a box of books someone had dropped by our home. I guess I was looking for something that might appeal to a child—a picture book, perhaps.
"Only one book in the box turned out to pique my curiosity, and I've sometimes wondered if this was one of those moments when the Holy Spirit initiates a beautiful, life-changing thing in a person's (even a child's) life? Taking the book from the box, I examined it. It had a deep maroon cover, and the title embossed on its face in large golden letters read: "Bible Stories by Elsie Egermeier."
"When I thumbed through the pages, I soon discovered that Ms. Egermeier's book recounted every Bible story in chronological order from Genesis to Revelation. Many of the stories were accompanied by black and white illustrations. On one page was an illustration of Joshua at Jericho. On another: Jesus pacifying the storm on Galilee.
"Now, I was not yet able to read the stories on my own," I told the publishers, "but I was captured instantly by those illustrations. In the months that followed, I taught myself to read (with some help, of course) and finally reached the time almost a year later when I was able to read every story in Elsie Egermeir's book.
"Thanks to this book, my core knowledge of the Bible took a quantum leap, and my nascent Christian faith began to form around those stories."
I went on to point out that while there are those who build their understanding of the Christian life around the propositions in the Pauline letters, mine was built around the stories of disparate people who, through the biblical generations, obeyed or disobeyed God.
"What does it mean to obey God?" I asked the audience. "For me the answer springs from the story of Abraham ascending a mountain to offer his son back to the Heavenly Father.
"And how to you define faith? I came to understand it from the adventures of Gideon, David and Goliath, and Elijah on Mount Carmel.
"How does God call people to his service? You'll find the answer in Moses' moment at the burning bush, in Esther's challenge from Mordecai, and in Mary's response to the angel when she was told she was to be the mother of Jesus.
"Prayer? You learn about it from Jesus in the garden or from the small group that interceded all night for Peter in prison.
"Compassion? Watch the father of the Prodigal son, and imagine the efforts of the Good Samaritan.
"Courage? Zoom in on Stephen. Integrity? Read about Daniel. Failure? Observe Solomon going downhill as he becomes full of himself.