Not That Kind of Pilgrim

I know everyone is consumed with seeing a movie about a man whose alter ego is a bat (in fact, my appointment is at 8:50 tomorrow morning to beat the crowds!), but there’s another story about a man who faces all types of dangers, villains, and hardships. And like our masked hero, this man must win the inner war (which we all know is the real story) just as assuredly as the outer one.

The hero’s name is simply “Christian,” and the book is called The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. I’m embarrassed to admit that I avoided this book for years because I thought it was a book about the pilgrims who came to America. Nothing against the pilgrims, but I just thought Why rehash the whole thing? We all know they made it. They ate  with our Native American friends, and now we have Thanksgiving.

What can I say? Some things just manage to slip through the cracks. But if John Bunyan were still around, he could have looked at me and said, “Not that kind of pilgrim, son.”

Anyway, I recently went camping overnight in Oak Creek Canyon all by myself and took the opportunity to read this book. I was instantly taken by the vivid expressions of thought, emotion, and authenticity.

And while I was sitting in my camping chair, with the sun setting behind the mountains and the wind rustling through the trees, I read a line that I instantly knew should be my life’s mission statement.

Christian, the protagonist, sets out on a journey to find the Celestial City (a.k.a., heaven). He tries to convince his family to go, but they want no part of it. He is conversing with two characters, one named Pliable and the other, Obstinate.

Obstinate asks him this question: “What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?”

His response is magnificent: “I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, and it is laid up in heaven, and safe there, to be bestowed, at the time appointed, on them who diligently seek it.”

Just focus on the first phrase: “I seek an inheritance incorruptible…”

That is his quest; but not only his quest, but the answer to the question of why he leaves “all the world” in pursuit of it.

It hit me there in my camping chair that that is the essence of the believer’s journey. Why leave behind what the world has to offer, when what it offers is pretty amazing? Because it is corruptible, it is defiled, and it fades away.

So the aim of my life is the pursuit of something better than the world’s produce. Better than the car that will inevitably find its way to a run down used car lot. Better than a mere human being who, as alluring as they may be now, will someday get old and scaly and raspy and give up the ghost as fast as they got it.

C.S. Lewis writes about us being “far too easily pleased” and maybe its high time we become a little more uppity when it comes to our expectations:

  • 80 or 90 years is NOT enough.
  • Retirement in a Winnebago is NOT enough.
  • Sex, in all its uses and misuses, is NOT enough.
  • Power, even over all the world, is NOT enough.
  • A well-chiseled body, at least this current one, is NOT enough.

This life is a journey to the next. That’s what it means to say “I seek an inheritance.” I enjoy what God has given me, but not the expense of my inheritance! Why would I settle for this pale life, when 1 Peter 1:4 says,:

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

I want to be a snob when it comes to what I believe God has in store for me. I’ll turn my nose up at a Rolls Royce should it get in the way of the pursuit of what awaits me in only a few short years. Just ask the people who aren’t here anymore (oh wait, we can’t) what matters now, and whether they are happy with where their hearts affections settled here in this life

So, it wasn’t about the pilgrims after all; but it was about a pilgrim – a man on a journey, like you and me. I’ve been rolling that statement around in my head for weeks: I seek an inheritance incorruptible.

That’s why I avoid sin. That’s why I forgive. That’s why I don’t mourn over the absence of wealth and fame. That’s why I surrender to the will of God.

Hey, it costs a buck on Amazon to download. Yes, its old English, but you can do it.

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