Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1
Those who make up this biblical cloud of witnesses—Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Rahab—are impressive figures, but most of the time, to me at least, they seem distant and untouchable. Almost not real. And because of that, they’re not quite the examples they’re meant to be.
But I have my own cloud of witnesses. I’ll bet you do too. Here are a few of the people who inhabit mine:
C.S. Lewis. Novelist, scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature, and Christian apologist (1898–1963). How many people can trace their conversion, at least in part, to a C.S. Lewis book or essay? Millions, I’m sure, including millions of children who learned to love the lion Aslan before they knew who Jesus was.
Thérèse of Lisieux. French Carmelite nun (1873–1897). Although Thérèse wanted to remain unknown, she also aspired to greatness—in God’s sight. Being “small” in her own eyes, her path to greatness was her “little way” of small (but costly) sacrifices. Her autobiography Story of a Soul, as it was later titled, written at the request of the prioress of Lisieux and published a year after her death, is one of the most moving and thought-provoking works in Christian literature.
Rich Mullins. Songwriter, singer, musician, and author (1955–1997). In the 1970s Rich Mullins was a youth pastor and music director at his Kentucky church. In the early 1980s he moved to Nashville and started a successful career in Christian music. And in the late 1980s he gave it all up. He went back to school, got a degree in music education, and moved to New Mexico to teach music to kids on the Navajo reservation. Rich probably earned millions of dollars in his lifetime, but he insisted on being paid each year no more than what the average salary in the U.S. was. He gave the rest to charity.
Keith Green. Songwriter, singer, and musician (1953–1982). Keith Green is the first contemporary Christian music artist I remember hearing, though I have to admit I’m not that fond of his music now. (It’s, well, very 1970s CCM.) It’s his life that interests me. Before he became a Christian, he delved into Eastern mysticism and drugs, fighting Jesus all the way. After he became a Christian, he opened his house to homeless kids and prostitutes. When he was released from his last record contract in 1979, he never again charged money for his albums or concerts. People gave only what they could, and the profits went to Keith’s Last Days Ministries. When I read articles and books about Keith, the same word keeps popping up: “radical.”
Corrie ten Boom. Dutch Holocaust survivor and author (1892–1983). Ten Boom was arrested, along with her entire family, for helping to hide Jews and resistance fighters from the Nazis. She was imprisoned at Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her father and sister died in the camps. Corrie survived and went on to write her memoir, The Hiding Place, among other works. After forty years, The Hiding Place is still in print.
What about you? Who is in your cloud of witnesses?