Philosophy Lite: Our pilgrimage to the celestial city
By Raymond Smith
If life deals you a lemon, you make lemonade, as the story goes. And if you are a John Bunyan, and you get jailed for street preaching, you write "Pilgrim's Progress." First published in 1678, its popularity was such that at one time "Pilgrim's Progress" and "Foxe's Book of Martyrs" were school textbooks in Puritan England. The book is an allegory, a literary device which, in this case, people and places represent vices and virtues.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a pilgrim as one who embarks on a quest for some end considered as sacred. King David, in I Chronicles 29:15 confesses to God before the Israelite people that, "We are strangers before you, and pilgrims, as our fathers were."
The point of this writing is to encourage an awareness of who we are and where we're going - that life is a pilgrimage and we press on day by day, ever keeping in mind our final destination. As the song says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through." For Bunyan, the trip was his journey to the Celestial City.
Here are some thoughts on the trip:
1. Know where you're going. If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there. Also, keep that destination in mind. It is worth remembering that after the first bitter winter in New England, and half their number were dead, not one of the surviving pilgrims wanted to go back to England on the Mayflower.
2. Learn as you go. The wise person pays attention to the lessons of life. Those who learn these lessons can avoid the difficulties that lie ahead.
3. Travel in good company. Not only does time pass more pleasantly, but we need each other for support. Ecclesiastes 4:9 states: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor; for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth and hath not another to lift him up." That suggests we need to stop and help others along the way.
4. Be prepared for problems and detours. We live in a broken world, and Christians are not exempt from pain and suffering.
5. Don't get distracted by worldly diversions. I Peter 2:11 says, "Dearly beloved, I exhort you as temporary residents and pilgrims to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." C.S. Lewis in his book, "The Problem of Pain," writes, "Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home."
6. Travel light. Today's travelers learn to carry only the essentials. Taking a lot of baggage only slows us down and makes the trip more cumbersome.
7. Keep moving. Someone has said that the journey of life is like riding a bicycle: If you go too slow or stop, you will fall down. Happy trails.
Raymond F. Smith is a deacon at Fellowship Bible Church in Victoria and president of Strong Families of Victoria.