I am delighted to report that after six and a half years of steady, focused, albeit part-time endeavor I was recently able to submit a comprehensive David Livingstone biography manuscript to the publisher. Praise the Lord! The book is to be published by Christian Focus Publications sometime next year, 2023.
Here are three of my personal perspectives on this protracted process which I thought you might find interesting. In what is shared here you may spot a similarity or two to your own major undertakings in life.
1. PRIVILEGE – When CFP kindly offered me the opportunity in late 2015 to write a full-length biography on the life and ministry of David Livingstone (1813-1873), the eminent Scottish missionary-explorer to Africa, I was thrilled with the prospect of doing so. I knew that Livingstone was one of the premier figures in the annals of Christian missions.
I would now have to confess, however, after thoroughly studying his life, that initially I understood less than half of the true greatness of the man. In addition to being a renowned missionary and explorer, Livingstone was the individual most responsible for (1) opening the interior of southcentral and southeastern Africa to Christianity and (2) preparing the way for slavery to be brought to an end throughout that vast region shortly after his death.
In order to accomplish what he did Livingstone needed to persevere through all manner of marked difficulties, dangers and personal sacrifices. He did so with incredible determination, courage and faith in God. Some of the many other positive traits that characterized Livingstone were his high level of intelligence, broad interests, confidence, humility, good sense of humor, solid biblical convictions, high moral principles, strong personal integrity, and devotional closeness to the Lord Jesus Christ whom he served.
As is true of many people possessing exceptional strengths, Livingstone also had some corresponding weaknesses that he was aware of and sought to work on. His shortcomings are readily acknowledged rather than ignored in the honest account I’ve written of his life.
But on the whole, as I learned more about Livingstone, I came to be filled with high admiration of his many outstanding accomplishments and of his numerous noble personal characteristics. I’ve gained a greatly-deepened sense of privilege to have learned much about this exceptional individual and to share his remarkable story with others.
2. PERSEVERANCE – At the outset of researching and writing Livingstone’s biography I had no idea what a massive undertaking it would turn out to be. I’ve been blessed to write several other books in the field of historic Christian biography, including three rather lengthy biographies on the lives and ministries of David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson and Andrew Murray. I anticipated an account of Livingstone’s life would turn out to be a similar length and would require a comparable amount of time and effort to accomplish. Instead my Livingstone manuscript ended up being well over three times longer than the longest works I had previously written. And researching and writing it required more than treble the time and effort given to my previous biographies.
That was primarily the case because of how expansive Livingstone’s life truly was, in terms of its many notable aspects, endeavors, events and accomplishments. Even with my biography’s considerable length, it certainly does not include every incident and feature of Livingstone’s life. But I have sought to include every occurrence and facet of his life that is significant and important.
Truth be told, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t foresee at the start what lay ahead in the writing of this book. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have had the heart or determination to undertake such an immense project in the first place.
Come to think of it, that’s how God leads us through a lot of life’s challenges, isn’t it? He wisely, mercifully spares us from seeing too much of what lies ahead, especially of a difficult nature, knowing it could be discouraging or even overwhelming to us. But then He leads us through those stresses and difficulties one step at a time, providing us with the strength, trust and determination to do so. With His help we’re able to withstand and accomplish more than we would have imagined or been willing to undertake.
3. GRATITUDE – I’m grateful to God and praise Him (certainly not myself) for granting me the ability and determination to stay focused and to keep plugging away on this project until it was completed. As the undertaking stretched out to far greater lengths than I ever would have imagined, I must admit that occasionally and alternately (rather than all at the same time) I felt incredulous, frustrated, discouraged, perplexed, even mortified and overwhelmed. But the Lord encouraged me past such periodic negative thoughts and feelings. He helped me to continue trusting that eventually He would allow me to accomplish the objective. Also very significantly, despite the length and challenges of the endeavor, God granted me a good degree of ongoing enjoyment throughout the process. It would have been much more difficult to complete the project without that buoying sense of continued enjoyment.
I’m also grateful to Christian Focus Publications (CFP) for the considerable patience it has shown to me throughout this prolonged process. Time and again as the book ballooned on me, I missed my self-projected deadlines and needed to indicate that I wouldn’t have the manuscript completed till some later point in the future. More than once CFP also graciously agreed to my request for an increase in the length (word-wise) of the volume.
Our church family, the dear people of the Aurora (Nebraska) Evangelical Free Church, were patient and supportive throughout the years I worked part-time on the Livingstone biography. (All my books have been written part-time on the side while carrying out full-time pastoral responsibilities.) Previously I had written and published a new biography every two or three years. But although the Livingstone project stretched out for several years, our church people continued to encourage me in it.
I’m also profoundly thankful for my wife Leeta who exhibited tremendous patience and unflagging support through this long process. She doubtless deserves special commendation for patiently and positively watching, listening and interacting as I have worked through all aspects of Livingstone’s history for going on seven years! Though she would never say so, this has involved her making some significant personal sacrifices along the way. May the Lord abundantly bless her for the great patience and support she has shown me.
Copyright 2022 by Vance E. Christie