I was 17 years old. I sat in a lawn chair that I had pulled down from the deck in our backyard. I sat facing the river and marsh. I had a copy of Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Shadow of the Almighty.
In the first few pages of the book, Elisabeth Elliot talks about how Christians today have a great lack of spiritual heroes.
When you ask the average young person (who is a Christian), to list their heroes, sadly, very few have a list of men and women of faith.
I remember Elisabeth talking about the great need for Christians to have heroes in the faith. Those whom we not only respect, but we want to be like. And how having heroes is so necessary for spiritual growth.
I sat in the yard that afternoon, and I thought about who my spiritual heroes were. I even made a list. That list included my parents and a couple older and wiser friends, several pastors and teachers, and a few of my favorite Biblical heroes. I listed out different character qualities that made me want to be like those people.
As I think back on the past 10 years of my life since that day, I know that having those spiritual heroes has helped to shape me into the person I am today.
I was thinking about spiritual heroes this past week because it was the anniversary of the death of Grant’s father, Kelly. Without a doubt, Kelly Castleberry is one of Grant’s greatest heroes (along with the father who raised him, Preston. Preston is the man whom his mother married 4 years after Kelly died).
There is a picture in our hallway upstairs that is a testimony to the heroism that Kelly holds in Grant’s life. Let me tell you the story behind it:
Kelly was a F-4 pilot in the Marine Corps. One weekend his squadron had a mandatory function at a beach house in N.C. The pilots were told not to bring their wives because they would be receiving their call signs (a nickname given to a military pilot).
When Kelly arrived home to Grant’s mom after the weekend was over, he was noticeably upset. Susan asked him what was wrong. Kelly went on to explain how awful the function was. The function turned wild, and unbeknownst to him, strippers were brought into the party to perform. Susan asked him what he did. Kelly went on to explain that since he couldn’t leave since it was a mandatory function, he sat in one corner of the room all evening with his hand over his eyes.
“Seriously… that’s what you did?” Susan asked unable to believe that he was able to do that in a crowded party with so much temptation. “Yes,” Kelly replied.
After Kelly’s death, someone gave Grant’s mom a photograph. In the photograph you can see Kelly at the party. While you can’t see the strippers, you can see Kelly in the back of the room, his hand over his eyes.
That photograph sat on Grant’s desk all throughout high school. It meant the world to Grant.
It reminded Grant daily, that just like his father, he must stand for Christ. And now, every time I go upstairs, it reminds me too.
Hebrews 13:7 says,
“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”
We need spiritual heroes.
But of course, our greatest hero is not a person. If we idolize one single person, they will inevitably let us down. After all, they are sinners just like we are.
But we do have One who is a perfect spiritual hero. One that we can follow completely and wholeheartedly.
“Let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Heb. 12:1-2)
I’m thankful this week for those who have led me, taught me, and been godly examples in my life. I’m thankful for photographs, notes, godly wisdom, prayers, and encouragement from godly family and friends.
My list of heroes hasn’t changed since that day in my parent’s backyard when I was 17, but it has grown.
And most of all, I’m thankful that those people have pointed me to my greatest hero, Jesus Christ.