Earlier, we explored the advantages and some general guidelines for how to use biographies as writing prompts. One of the suggested outlines:
Compare / Contrast life of the main character and your life.
Introduction: Introduce three areas using parallel structure to introduce these areas.
Area #1: Main Character’s Life vs. My Life
Area #2: Main Character’s Life vs. My Life
Area #3: Main Character’s Life vs. My Life
Conclusion: Review three areas using parallel structure to summarize these areas.
Reading Esther’s Burr’s Journal made me think of how different her life seems from mine so I chose the above outline for my essay. Born on February 13, 1732, Esther Edwards grew up in the home of the great theologian and famous preacher of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards. Later, she married Aaron Burr. Their son, Aaron Burr Jr. became Vice President and most notably challenged Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury to a dual. Hamilton died as a result.
Esther Burr’s Journal – Her Life and Mine
I knew nothing of Esther Burr before reading her journal. This journal opens on her ninth birthday when she declares that her mother had her stitch pages together to make a journal. Certainly, a girl writing a journal in 1741 lived a life much different than mine. Yet, we share in important ways. Exploring these similarities and differences, we will look at her relationship to her parents, her husband and her Lord.
Immediately, Esther’s references to her parents struck me as very different. She referred to them as Mr. or Mrs. Edwards. Except as a very young child when it was Daddy or Mommy, I have referred to my parents as Dad and Mom. While some of my peers have used other names for their parents, I know of none who referred to them as Mr. and Mrs. when talking about or to them. Further, Esther would include additional terms of respect such as “my honored father, Mr. Edwards.” From the journal, I suppose that, when talking to them, Esther called them Father and Mother. My mother also called her parents, Father and Mother. As I grew up, I believe that my parents expected and received more respect from my siblings and me than others. I grew up in a military family and that possibly contributed to a greater expectation than the general population. Even so, overall I believe that respect for elders has greatly diminished throughout my life time and certainly quite a bit since the 1700s.
Later in the journal, I found that the path from meeting an individual to marrying has changed much since the life of Esther Burr. Aaron Burr, a preacher, had visited the Edward’s home over an extended period of time and it surprised Esther on the day that she took her turn to prepare a breakfast for Mr. Burr and no one else came to breakfast. Mr. Burr asked her to marry him. Her response, “If it please the Lord.” Later, Mr. Burr sent horses for Esther and her mother. Upon arrival, Aaron and Esther married. Again, she referred to her husband as Mr. Burr. At the age of 20 she became a busy pastor’s wife. Later, they had two children. When he had to preach or teach elsewhere, she missed him and even gave birth to Aaron Burr, Jr. in Mr. Burr’s absence. I, too, desire to show respect for my husband. In our day, women commonly refer to their husbands by their first name unless talking to a child who should address him as “Mr. ….” While, I do not believe we must return to that formality, as Christian wives, we must show respect for our husbands to them as well as about them. In addition, when talking to others, we must not speak ill of our husbands. Certainly, though not perfect, they are perfect for us. God uses spouses to sanctify each other. Reading Esther’s journal provides a great reminder to all of us.
Finally, we will explore Esther’s relationship with her Lord. She grew up in a pastor’s home and experienced the “Great Awakening” from a very unique situation. She spoke of how God used her parents in dealing with those convicted of sin. One example of Esther’s relationship with the Lord, “The air was full of music of the sleigh-bells of the church-goers, as they drove past. And I thought of what is said in the Scriptures, of the bells as he went into the holy place; and so the greater music of the church bells seemed to say to my soul, holiness to the Lord!” (p. 22) Further, Esther quoted something her father preached that blessed her,
Ruth’s Resolution, ‘Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to turn from following thee. (Ruth1,16) I shall never forget his words about the people of God. He said, “They are the most excellent and happy society in the world. God whom they have chosen as their God, is their Father. He has pardoned all their sins, and they are at peace with Him. And He has admitted them to all the privileges of children. As they have devoted themselves to God, so God has given Himself to them. …’Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my, God.’ P. 23
Yes, knowing that the holy and sovereign God of the universe is the God of His children grants us blessings untold. I do not have to be the daughter of famous parents nor married to a famous man, to know that I am the child of this great God.
Getting to know Esther Burr through reading her journal has enriched me. Accompanying huge contrasts in our lives, I rejoice in the similarities. Her relationships with her parents, her husband and her Lord reflect mine in so many ways.
Within six months of each other grandparents and parents of Sally Burr Reeves, age 4 and Aaron Burr Jr., age 2 died leaving them orphans. Aaron Burr died at age 41. Months later, Jonathan Edwards died as a result of a small pox vaccination. Within 16 days Esther Burr died. Six months after Jonathan die, Sarah died of dysentery. These individuals gave their all for Christ.