An all-time favorite book of mine is Pilgrims Progress. For those who might not know, this is a book written mostly in a jail cell by John Bunyon in the seventeenth century. It is an allegory of a young man named Christian and his journey along the path of life from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Wikipedia shows this book as number six on the all time best seller list of books. One reason for the book's success, I think, is because Christians easily relate to the story as well as to characters such as Faith, Love, Obstinate, Vein Hope and others which the character Christian faces in his sojourn. Also I think many Christians find the book comforting because the allegory aspect of the book causes its encouragement to be timeless. The reader finds solace knowing that the struggles he is experiencing are no different than those who have gone before him; that he is indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
My own path out of the City of Destruction began fifteen or so years ago in Nashville, Tennessee. The path seemed like an up hill climb at the time as I studied scriptures, listened to teachers, and attempted to apply what I had learned to life. I had not read Pilgrims Progress at the time, and never anticipated the fact that the journey was just that; a journey. I can remember looking forward to the day when I would become a confident and competent Christian and the path would level out and be smooth and easy. Of course this has not happened, nor do I any longer expect it to. Sure there have been periods of rest just as there were with Bunyon’s Christian, but for the most part this walk has proved to be fraught with traps, snags, and dangers that lurk beyond every bend and crest.
Some might ask, then why take the path at all? To answer I will cite one of my most beloved events in Scripture. It can be found in John chapter six. Jesus was telling a crowd that to have life; they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. These words caused the crowd to disperse quickly leaving Jesus alone with his twelve disciples. Then Jesus asked them, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Then Peter responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter’s question is one of my most favorite scriptures of all. I love it because I have asked the same question many times, “to whom shall I go?”
There is one more thing I’ve learned about this path that Bunyon doesn’t’ mention. This is the fact that at each step, the path behind me crumbles away. No matter how many steps I take forward up the mountain, so to speak, it is always only one step backward to the bottom. There are no intermediate destinations along the way where one can drive in a steak and say this is as far as I’m going, and it is far enough. No, the Christian walk is one that is for life, and one that has a destiny that is not of this world. We fix our eyes not on what we see, but what we do not see, a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God himself. But one of the most precious things we can know about this walk, whether it be during a difficult stretch, or a smooth one, is we are not left here to go it alone. The Author and Perfecter of our faith is always there to lead and guide us, and though we may occasionally fall, we are not cast down, for he will always uphold us with his hand.