Walking with the Saints
This week at our Wednesday Healing Service we celebrate the life of John Bunyan (1628-1688), best known for his writing about a man called “Christian” and his journey toward salvation in his book called “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”
I first became aware of this book in my high school days in the late 1950’s. I became familiar with the theme of “Christian” making progress toward the eternal “Celestial City”--“Land of Beulah” against all of the temptations and pitfalls that lay in his way. In this allegory, Christian passes through the “Slough of Despond” and the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” and encounters such villains as “Obstinate,” “Beelzebub,” “Mr. Worldly Wiseman,” “Hypocrisy,” “Talkative,” “Mr. Despondency,” “Mrs. Inconsiderate,” and “Formalist” (ouch!).
(If you don’t find yourself in this preliminary list see me and we will find your unique niche in a much longer list that Bunyan provides.)
But there are also helpers along the way, such as “Evangelist,” “Goodwill,” “Piety” and “Charity.” You will find yourself in some of these roles also. The point is that the journey to salvation is fraught with barriers to salvation, and it is only by the grace of God that we make it through. We need the witness of many others if we have any hope of completing the obstacle course that we call “life”!
“For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” This is the very appropriate reading from Matthew’s Gospel (7:14) that accompanies our consideration of the life and work of John Bunyan. It is a reminder of our need for God’s grace for all our days of our own life’s journey, our own pilgrim’s progress toward eternal life with God.
I find this approach to my journey a sobering reminder of my dependence upon God. I never seem to outgrow my needs in this regard. And despite my false vision of myself as self-reliant, even with regard to my faith, I am humbled by this fresh awareness.
A pilgrim is defined as one who journeys to a sacred place. But the connotation for me at least is that this pilgrimage is long and arduous, and at the same time filled with hope and joy.
How would you characterize your pilgrimage thus far?