Finally, my pilgrim’s journey is over!

Before you jump to conclusions… I just finished Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.

It took me pretty much a year, but I made it! Here are my reflections on the book.

Obviously it’s an allegory, so there’s some interesting things there. Thoughts about how literal is this telling? How directly is it related to life? Are these real people or more like character traits?
That last one is interesting because Christian is a person, but the rest of the characters seem to be ideas, concepts, and character traits.
In the second book, about Christian’s wife and children journeying to the Celestial City, this breaks down a bit. There is a whole group of characters who seem to portray actual people or at least types of people.
I really want to talk about the second half of the book, about Christian’s wife, Christiana, which I will just call the second book from here on.

The whole time I was reading the second book, I had one question: Why does Christiana have so much help, while Christian had just one companion? (My second question relates to a specific character, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

I think Bunyan was pointing to the trend that the first person in a family, a city, or any kind of community who becomes a believer in Christ, is in a way blazing a new trail. There is no one for them to follow, there is no testimony of faithfulness showing them the way, walking along with them. So this make sense that in the first book, Christian was so incredibly dependent on the Bible, and on his fellow pilgrims, namely Faithful and Hopeful. However, he did not have any “older believers” to be imitating, seeking counsel from, or bringing to mind how they did this part of the path.

In the second book, a great amount of words are spent recalling what Christian did in the first book. The places he went are revisited, monuments are noted recounting the things he did, etc.
Christiana and her children seem to be the second and third generation of believers going through life remembering the one who went before, the faithfulness of God to him, the hope he had, and therefore the hope they have of heaven.

That brings me to my second question that I kept asking myself while I read the second book: Who is Great-heart?

I still don’t have an answer for this, but here are my guesses:

  1. He is the Word, the Bible.
  2. He is a pastor.
  3. He is an angel.

Let me break these down.

First, Great-heart is an allegory for the Bible. My main reason for this is that he is dressed all in armor, he is the literal armor of God. This reasoning falls apart a little bit at the end when we meet Valiant, because he is also dressed all in armor and clearly using it.

Second, Great-heart is an allegory for a Pastor. This one possibly makes the most sense. A good pastor leads God’s people (see the entire books of 1&2 Timothy and Titus, is responsible for God’s people (James 3:1), should be dressed in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:12-18), and skilled in using the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible (2 Timothy 4:2).

Third, Great-heart is an allegory for an Angel. Angel’s are literally ministering spirits. Just as they ministered to Jesus in the garden (Luke 22) it makes sense that angels minister to those whom Jesus redeemed, although mostly unseen. Looking into the Old Testament, angels were involved in much of God’s communication and leading of his people. What comes to my mind are the angels appearing to Abraham on several occasions (see Genesis, all over the place). Just recently I was reading in Exodus when the Israelites had just escaped Egypt, and are on the edge of the Red Sea, an angel is described as leading them. Here’s the passage.

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.

Exodus 14:19

I still don’t know the answer to who or what Great-heart, and to a lesser extent Valiant, are representing in the book. Thinking over it, however, has been kind of fun, and really made me think deeply about the entire book and what points Bunyan was making with his allegory.

Allegories always point to reality, but because this book was written back in the 1600s, it is less clear.

Also, the language is an adventure. On that note, here is far and away my favorite quote from the book:

Bowels become pilgrims

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Just yes.

Walk on, Pilgrim.
“…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10)

Soli Deo Gloria!

How to encourage your children

Spoiler alert: I’m not very good at this.

I’m am not a natural encourager.
It is not my spiritual gift, if you want to put it that way.
I have an analytical mind, which delights in ruminating on all things, actions, words, ideas, jokes, dreams, songs, pictures, movies, turns of phrases. Everything! You pick something I will sit for minutes, hours, days thinking over it, dissecting it, pulling it apart, rearranging it, finding different possible meanings or intentions or directions or… Well, you see what I mean.

But, God calls me to love my family sacrificially, to “consider others as more important than myself” to paraphrase Philippians 2:3, to get out of my head and my thoughts and put love into action.

Encouragement is, I think, the most basic way to “put on love”, as Colossians 3:14 commands us to do.

My ‘three steps’ for how to encourage your children, or really anyone in your life.

1. Get to know them

The first step in how to encourage anyone, but especially our children, is to get to know them. Each child is different, in case you haven’t noticed, so each one will be encouraged differently.

For example:

My son loves a quick hug and a sentence saying how much I love him. A simple “I know you can do this” when he’s frustrated is just what his little heart needs to hear.

My middle child on the other hand would dig in her stubborn heels and let loose the sass machine if I said “I know you can do this”. I’ve tried. Her response was: “I know I can’t!”
For her, I have to do something different, because she is different from her brother.

Get to know your child. What helps, what doesn’t, what haven’t you tried yet. And remember, they are not just different from each other, but also your children are different from you! What would never in a million years be something you would like, may bring joy to their souls.

2. It will be inconvenient, so be patient.

This is less of a step and more of a reminder for you.

These moments when your child needs you rarely come when you are ready for them.

Before launching into fixing your kid’s problem, take a deep breath, calm yourself (and the situation if necessary), and set your heart in an attitude of patience. Because the whole point of encouraging your children is to love them. “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4), not ‘love is busy’.

3. Repeat the encouragement. Say it again. Today, tomorrow, in a week, in a month

Point made, yet?

Seriously though, keep encouraging your child! Don’t just do it once and check off the box. That’s not how it works. It’s certainly not how it works for you, is it?

Remember, we as Christians are modeling Christ, God himself, to our children (and to the world!).
God repeats himself a lot. A major theme in the bible is how incredibly forgetful we humans are, and how often God is reminding us, his people of who he is and what he’s done. Your children are humans too! They forget, and just like they need repeated instructions to clean up the Legos all over the floor for the eightieth time, they will need repeated encouragement and love from you, too.

“I know you can do this.”

“I love you, even when…”

“Here, let’s do this together.”

“I understand, sometimes I feel that way, too.”

“I hear you, thank you for telling me!”

“I love watching you play, can I play too?”

“Big hug and kiss?”

Go encourage your children today. (Or whoever you happen to be around today, tomorrow, any day of your life: your spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, coworker, neighbor, friend, etc.)

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3)

Soli Deo Gloria!

To My Soul – An Advent Poem

An Advent poem after advent? Yes, because if we hold to his first, we look forward, ever expectantly, for his second.

In what will you be content,
Oh Soul?
What is it you love?
What loves you faithfully back?
Nature’s delicacies are pure,
But fleeting.
And people,
My dear people,
Are sincere,
But faulty.

Satisfaction is in the 
Transcendent incarnated,
Word made flesh,
Promise fulfilled,
Delight manifest,
Joy dawned,
Love that came down.

Find your yearning in the King
Who made,
Who is,
Who always will
Be beauty,
Love,
Goodness,
And Truth.
Find what you long for 
In Him, my Soul.

By Anna Young

Rawness of mourning

12 hours through the worst 24 hours of my life up until now.

My eyes are swollen.

The tears still come.

It’s wrong, it’s painful, it’s not supposed to happen. But it does, and it’s happening to me.

I don’t know why, but I know I loved you already.

No face, no hands, no voice, nothing but a memory.

A sign said yes, a week later became a loud, unmistakable, gut wrenching no.

I never met you, but I loved you already.

I can’t think of the “what ifs”, the “would haves”, the “should haves”. It’s too much, too painful, too many tears.

I’m just sad.

So sad.

I loved you already.

To my angel baby: I’m processing your loss, my loss, your life, your death, your existence, and, now, my emptiness.

If I already loved you so, I know you’re in much safer hands now. More loving hands. Eternal, secure, sovereign hands.

I’m comforted by prayers, and truth that many who loved you are also in His hands. Already, and not yet.

I already loved you, but I have not yet loved you. Not yet held you, not yet seen you, not yet told you.

My angel baby.

I miss you. I’m sad. I weep.

I love you.

Father, I do not understand… “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief”.

Soli Deo Gloria