I’m finally finishing To the Golden Shore, Courtney Anderson’s riveting biography of Adoniram Judson. It’s a book I should have befriended years ago and is as riveting as any novel I’ve ever read. It’s just saturated with personal tragedy and gospel triumph. I’ve been moved to tears on more than one occasion.
The following scene captures the heart of Judson as well as any. Judson had spent over three decades taking the gospel to the unreached in Burma. He had lost one wife, and was being forced back to the United States (for the first time) by his second wife’s fatal illness. He had lost several children and co-workers, spent a year and a half in a virtual death camp, battled illnesses, faced ferocious animals, and seen the unspeakable splendor of Burmese monarchs. He received a hero’s welcome in the States; people thronged to see and hear this living legend. He would take the opportunity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but often his hearers were disappointed. Here’s the reflection of Emily (who would become his third wife) on one such meeting:
As he sat down…it was evident, even to the most unobservant eye, that most of the listeners were disappointed. After the exercises were over, several persons inquired of me, frankly, why Dr. Judson had not talked of something else; why he had not told a story… On the way home, I mentioned the subject to him.
“Why, what did they want?” he inquired; “I presented the most interesting subject in the world, to the best of my ability.”
“By they wanted something different—a story.”
“Well, I am sure I gave them a story—the most thrilling one that can be conceived of.”
“But they had heard it before. They wanted something new of a man who had just come from the antipodes.”
“Then I am glad they have it to say, that a man coming from the antipodes had nothing better to tell than the wondrous story of Jesus’ dying love.”
I love that. May we have such humility and regard for the gospel that we similarly exalt it far above our own anecdotes.