Why I Am Writing This Book

Several weeks ago a thought struck me with such force that I immediately set about acquiring a computer: I would write a book! Two basic themes suggested themselves to me: The book could be an autobiography or even a sort of history of the Mitchell family as I have experienced it; or the book could be what I believe and why I believe it. Or perhaps I can find a way to combine the two themes. Anyway, I want to write a book.

How does one go about writing a book? As I have been thinking about various incidents of the past, it has been obvious that one book cannot possibly do justice to one’s lifetime! And what about the other areas of interest, the extensions into the lives of those among whom I lived? How could I pick and choose among thousands of incidents to isolate those few hundred that would tell my story properly? A text from the end of John’s Gospel comes to mind: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 2 1:25). And Jesus’ ministry covered less than four years!

There are several good reasons why I think I should write the book. Almost every time I get together with my sisters, one of us will reminisce about some incident in our past that either the others had not known about, had forgotten, or remembered differently. What will happen to these details when we have gone the way of all flesh?

When I look back on the last twenty years or so, I can count on one hand the times when I have had personal contact with many of my nephews and nieces. Even those closest to me live much of their lives in an arena about which I know almost nothing. There are vast areas of my personal experience about which even my wife knows very little, and I know very little of some incidents in her life. Each of us lives on a tiny island of one inhabitant, with more or less frequent visits from those who live on their own little islands. There are so many influences that compete for our time and attention, that the matter of family get-togethers is usually on a once a decade or less basis. Truly we are all strangers to one another, even when we live in the same house, or have a common mother, grandmother or more distant forebear. Perhaps a book detailing many of the experiences we shared in the past would bring us closer together now in the present — if only to dispute the facts presented!

Our fragmented society of today is so vastly different from that of our grandparents or even our parents! Families are no longer closely knit like those of earlier generations. If not living in the same house, they usually lived in the same town or section of the country, and got together frequently. Not so today. I am sure that most of the people that call my mother grandmother or great-grandmother, know less about many of their blood relatives than they do about their classmates or workmates. Perhaps they would like to know more and would really be interested in reading about these events and impressions in my life, many of them before they were born.

And of course there is another reason. I would like very much to leave a legacy of what life has meant to me — of what I have found in life that is truly worthwhile among all that is worthless — of what I have come to believe are the important truths of life, death, and the life to come. These matters are difficult to discuss because they are so intimate, so confidential. Whatever our belief system, we fail to follow it so often that we have guilt feelings every time we try to talk about these deep things of life. I know how difficult it is for me to talk about these matters rationally, so that I hardly even dare to bring them up, knowing from sad experience that those to whom I am talking will probably misunderstand and think I am criticizing them — and then I will feel criticized. Perhaps by writing about these matters as they naturally arise in telling of past events, both I and my reader will avoid the emotional involvement that makes conversation so difficult.

Why should I write a book? Who would read it? How could it be published? Obviously, unless I can find satisfying answers to these and similar questions, I should give up the whole idea. The decision I reached in this matter was to write about the incidents that I thought would be worth recording, and let someone else, far better qualified than I, choose from them as many, if any, as should be published. Other thoughts about this writing business came to my mind: How much could I depend on my memory for the facts? Shouldn’t I seek recollections from other members of the family and other persons mentioned outside the family? What about old correspondence? How strictly should I stay to the relating of the facts, and how far could or should I go in discussing their meaning to me — both at the time and now? Should I fill in the gaps in factual recollections with speculation on what may have taken place or even downright fictional areas to enliven the text?

This matter of writing a book is serious business! Who am I to invade the domain of the Micheners and the Gunthers? And when it comes to discussing one’s (my) faith, what can I offer that could hold a candle to Billy Graham or R. C. Sproul? Then this comforting thought came: As long as I stick to my own experience, I am the authority — no one else!

Why should I include anything about my faith? my beliefs? A very good reason — they are an integral part of me! A story about the outside influences of a person’s life is not complete — may not even be meaningful. That story must also tell how the person reacted to those experiences — and that involves what one believes. I really do believe that God has a plan for my life, and that He has touched it in quite a few places to ensure that His plan is carried out. If this is really true, surely these marks He has made would be evident to others as they read about the incidents. So I will endeavor to point out those places in the chain of events that constitute my life, so that the reader can judge for him- or her-self if God was really at work. Because if He is concerned about me, then He must also be concerned about every one of His children.

What I Believe About God

Perhaps a brief summary of what I believe about God should be given here, that the references to God’s activity in my life that follow will have a foundation. First in importance is that God is a person — all powerful, knowing everything, everywhere present, perfectly just, perfectly righteous, but also good, kind, loving, compassionate and forgiving. He created the entire universe with all its galaxies, stars, suns, planets, and also life on this planet on which we live; but He is not part of that creation; He exists independently of space and time. Second, that He created living things to populate the earth, with man as the highest level among the vast numbers of species; He endowed man with some of His own attributes which He did not give to the lower animals — the ability to love, imagine, understand, enjoy, and create (but not to create out of nothing either material things or ideas) and to distinguish right from wrong; and He gave man free will — to love and obey Him as his Lord and Creator, or to rebel against Him and do his own thing. Third, that the first man did rebel against God, and everyone descended from that first man is born in a state of rebellion against God as a selfish creature that is primarily concerned with what he can get out of life for himself. Fourth, that God — knowing in advance that man would rebel — provided for the redemption of everyone who would accept God’s gracious offer of pardon, by Himself becoming a man to show rebellious man how He wants him to live, to demonstrate that it was possible to live that way, and to Himself take the penalty of man’s rebellion, which is death and separation from God, so that those who accept God’s pardon will not have to be punished for their rebellion. Fifth, that God will give each such pardoned person a new nature, untainted by the inherited rebellious spirit, that will grow during the remainder of life on earth, but does not remove the old nature, requiring each pardoned person continuously to decide which nature is to be in command. Sixth, that such pardoned persons will be resurrected at the time appointed to henceforth live forever with God Himself as a perfect creature, wholly responding to God’s love with voluntary but perfect obedience and love. I believe that God has done that for me, as He has done for millions of others now living or who lived in the past, and want with all my heart to see all my relatives and friends enjoy this same relationship with God.

What evidence is there available to establish the truth of these beliefs? Surely, if God does indeed exist (and I, for one among millions have no doubts whatsoever that He does), is there not some objective evidence that can be pointed to? This question must be addressed before looking for the evidence. Central to the Christian faith is the fact that God is outside of the physical universe He created — He is omnipresent within it but He is not a part of it. His actions are of two types: creative and influential; creative in that He either brings into existence physical entities which previously had no existence or restores to life or health living beings who have died or become sick, and influential in that He plants thoughts in the minds of people. Acts of the first kind are evidenced by original creation and subsequent “miracles” performed by His agents or His Son over the centuries of human history, and acts of the second kind are evidenced by the doings of people — both believers and non-believers. The first kind rarely (some say never) occur today. But acts of the second kind are wide-spread beyond our ability to identify. It is these thought-implanting actions of God (as testified to by the people concerned) and the subsequent events that occurred that I want to point out in the story of my life.

So I am going to write a book. The normal way to write an autobiography is to start at the beginning — birth or the events leading up to the birth. Then follow with incidents from childhood, adolescence, courtship, marriage, family, career, old age. Perhaps that is the best way to write an autobiography. One can start with the present and then reach back through the corridors of memory to find the causes that brought about the present situation — the influences that shaped one’s present thinking about life and death and life beyond death. We’ll see how it goes!

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