Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Pilgrim's Journey

"I cannot go so fast as I would, by reason of this burden that is on my back." --Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan, 1678

 One of my favorite books, Pilgrims Progress, has been on my mind recently, so today I picked up my son's copy and browsed through it.

 The book above is a re-telling by Gary D. Schmidt, but he has done an excellent job, and I love his writing style.  Gary explains, "I have tried to stay close to Bunyan's original but I have attempted to tell his story to a contemporary audience—which is, after all, what he did." Bunyan wrote in the most common language of his time, as he wanted his points and images to be familiar with his readers, common folk.

After reading a bit, I dug out a very old copy that I found at a yard sale because I wanted to compare some parts with the original text.
As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.
As you probably know, John Bunyan penned this book while in prison.

Here is a little more about him via Christianity Today's website:

Bunyan's rise as a popular preacher coincided with the Restoration of Charles II. The freedom of worship Separatists had enjoyed for 20 years was quickly ended; those not conforming with the Church of England would be arrested. By January 1661, Bunyan sat imprisoned in the county jail.

The worst punishment, for Bunyan, was being separated from his second wife (his first had died in 1658) and four children. "The parting ... hath oft been to me in this place as the pulling the flesh from my bones," he wrote. He tried to support his family making "many hundred gross of long tagg'd [shoe] laces" while imprisoned, but he mainly depended on "the charity of good people" for their well-being.

Bunyan could have freed himself by promising not to preach but refused. He told local magistrates he would rather remain in prison until moss grew on his eyelids than fail to do what God commanded.

And out of his hardships grew a powerful allegory about a man and his journey through life that has become an inspiration to many. We relate to this man's struggles and experiences and gain courage to face our own circumstances with courage. We see God's love and care for "Christian" even when he does not see it himself.

So, my fellow pilgrims, if you've never read Pilgrims Progress, I highly recommend it. There are many modern language versions, if you would prefer not to plow through the old English.  Get started right now...

Do you see yonder wicket-gate?
The man said, "No."
Then said the other, "Do you see yonder shining light?"
"I think I do."
Then said Evangelist, "Keep that light in your eye and go directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate; at which when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do."

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