Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

5.25.2010

Passion and Patience

There I was, scrubbing the stubborn scum off of our porcelain tub with all my might, sweating and inhaling the bleach fumes. As I continued on this most ordinary Saturday of all Saturdays, something broke in my heart—in fact, I think my heart itself cracked as God finally tilled the little patch that I had kept hard and dry for myself. Overcome with emotion, I sat on the toilet, scrub brush in one hand and tears running down my eyes. I documented that day in my Bible, as I do all momentous spiritual occurrences in my life, and this is what I wrote:

“God still relentlessly pursues me! While reading Pilgrim’s Progress, I came under heavy conviction that I have been reveling in the things of this world to the neglect of those things of eternal value. I will read Scripture faithfully now, not because it will make me a better person, but because I am so weak and depraved, I cannot possibly get on without it.”

Perhaps you find it clich├ęd that God gave me a push on my spiritual journey from a book about spiritual journeys. Maybe you think it’s odd that I had never read Pilgrim’s Progress before; possibly you yourself have never read it, whether because of lack of inclination, resources, or time. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is just as pithy, poignant, and painfully honest as ever. In fact, while Pilgrim’s Progress was second only to the Bible as the bestselling book of all time for centuries, it is has been superseded by other works, so that it now holds the yet impressive spot as the seventh bestselling book of all time, with over 250 million copies sold in over 200 languages[1].

So what part was I reading that overcame me so completely, changed me so wonderfully, and put tears in my eye so fittingly? I read of the image the Interpreter shows Christian, where two little children, Passion and Patience, sit together in a room. And, although I read the original, Internet readers and blog surfers (me included) tend to skim over the more difficult parts, so here I quote The Pilgrim’s Progress in Modern English.

“Then Christian said to the Interpreter, ‘Explain this matter to me more completely.’

So the Interpreter began his explanation: ‘These two boys are figures. Passion is figuratively the people of this world, and Patience is the people of the world to come. As you see here, just like the people of this world, Passion wants it all now, this year—that is to say, in this world. The people of this world must have all their good things now, for they can’t wait for their portion of good things until next year—that is, until the next world. The proverb “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” carries more weight with them than all the divine testimonies of the worth of the world to come. But as you saw, he quickly wasted it all away and soon had nothing left for himself but rags. So it will be with all such people at the end of this world.’

Christian then said, ‘Now I see that Patience has the best wisdom, and for many reasons: One—because he waits for the best things; and two—because he will have the glory of his possessions when the other has nothing but rags.’

‘No,’ said the Interpreter, ‘you may add another reason—namely, the glory of the next world will never wear out, but other glories are soon gone. Passion, therefore, didn’t have as much reason to laugh at Patience—because Passion had his best things first—as Patience will have to laugh at Passion—because Patience had his best things last....Therefore, it is said of Dives, “In your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony[2].’

Christian responded, ‘Then I understand it’s not best to covet things that now exist but to wait for things yet to come.’

‘You speak the truth,’ answered the Interpreter. ‘”For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal[3].” But even though this is true, things now seen live so close together with our sinful desires that they both quickly become friends. Also, things to come are such strangers to material knowledge that they continue to be separated.’”

Soon after this sight, the Interpreter takes Christian to a man sitting depressed and dejected in an iron cage. When Christian asks the man why he sits thus, the man replies that, although he was once an esteemed professor on his way to the Celestial City, he has since been waylaid.

“’I stopped being alert and self-controlled,’ said the man. ‘I let loose the reigns of my desires[4]. I sinned against the Light of the Word and the goodness of God. I’ve grieved the Spirit, and He is gone[5]. I tempted the Devil, and he has come to me. I’ve provoked God to anger, and He has left me. I have so hardened my heart that I cannot repent[6].’

…Then Christian asked, ‘Is there any hope from being kept in the Iron Cage of Despair?’

‘No, none at all,’ said the man.

‘Why?’ asked Christian.

‘I’m guilty of crucifying Him again[7],’ answered the man. ‘I’ve despised His position[8], I’ve hated His righteousness, and I’ve treated His blood as an unholy thing. I’ve insulted the spirit of Grace[9]. So I’ve excluded myself from all the promises, and now there remains for me nothing but threats, dreadful threats, fearful threats of certain judgment and raging fire, which will devour me as an enemy of God.’

‘Why did you bring yourself into this condition?’ inquired Christian.

The man answered, ‘For the desires, pleasures, and profits of this world. I promised myself great delight in the enjoyment of them. But now every one of those things bite me and gnaw at me like burning worms….Oh, Eternity! Eternity! How will I cope with the misery I’ll meet with in Eternity!’

Then the Interpreter said to Christian, ‘Remember this man’s misery, and let it be an everlasting caution to you[10].’

‘Well,’ said Christian, [and here I quote the original] ‘this is fearful! God help me to watch and be sober, and to pray that I may shun the cause of this man's misery!’”

Thus, though God is great enough to save anyone, this poor man had imprisoned himself in an iron cage of his own making, too sinful and miserable to realize that God could have broken the bars at any moment. In a flash, Christian’s prayer went straight to my heart, and it was at that moment that I could no longer contain myself: “God! Help me, I plead! Help me to watch and be sober, and to pray that I may shun the cause of this man’s misery! I cannot possibly escape it on my own, and so I come helpless and pleading to You, that You might defend and save me from my passion, and keep me for patience.”




If you have not yet read Pilgrim’s Progress, please consider doing so—it was essential reading material for Christians only one century ago. You can check out Project Gutenberg’s free, human-read audio book, or pick up that dusty hard copy off your shelf, or look into the updated version I quoted here! Also, look into this dramatized version on DVD; it is the most engaging, quality, and genuine version I have ever seen on video!

[1] http://crunkish.com/top-ten-bestselling-books-of-all-time/
[2] Luke 16:25
[3] II Corinthians 4:18
[4] Luke 8:13
[5] Ephesians 4:30
[6] Hebrews 3:13
[7] Hebrews 6:4-6
[8] Luke 19:14
[9] Hebrews 10:26-31
[10] Hebrews 12:14-17

Quotations from:

Bunyan, John and Hazelbaker, L. Edward. The Pilgrim's Progress in Modern English. Bridge-Logos Publishers, North Brunswick, NJ. 1998.

5 comments:

  1. And what amazing, ecstatic joy we feel when we commit (and re-commit, and re-commit :) to putting Him before all of Passion's rags! It really makes one walk on air!!!
    I'm one of the shameful who has not read Pilgrim's Progress beyond the abridged version...but it's on my "must read" list - especially after this post! :)

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  2. This comment has nothing to do with the bulk of your post, but after reading the first paragraph I must share this helpful hint with you! It may sound overboard but cleaning the shower/tub every time you use it will prevent scrubbing : ) Just wipe down shower/tub with a washcloth (or anything else) and spray with vinegar. This immediate cleaning of the shower/tub prevents layers of soap scum and dirt from building up. Thus resulting in a clean shower/tub...always!

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  3. I think Pilgrim's Progress is on almost every Christian's "someday reading list," but if I've inspired you, Sarah, or anyone else, to move it to this year's reading list, then I will feel that my mission was accomplished. =)
    Thanks for the tip, Hannah! We scrub our bathrooms regularly every week, but I can see how a daily cleaning would be a good preventative measure. Now I just have to convince the rest of my family. ;-) BTW--I love your profile picture! So beautiful and artistic!

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  4. pilgrims progress always got me when I was in a rut when I read it this past year. Some of the old english might have been hard at times, but it always reminded me to stire away from the world. But not just that it helped me remember that God is powerful and we are weak and only by His grace can I a sinner go on each day overcoming sins and trials! thanks for the great reminder of His grace!

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  5. Great post! I was just messin' around on Blogger and your blog was on the "Blogs of Note" tab! It's good seeing other people out there trying to be (and being) a light for Christ.

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