(Candace took these photos for me while touring London.)
John Bunyan. One of Christendom’s greats. Once again, I have been reading through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress with my writing classes and once again I have been moved to tears. As I was reading of Christian’s arduous journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, one particular sentence moved me. Bunyan writes, “When Christian came near to the burning pit, he became so confused that he did not know his own voice.” He continues, “Just as he was passing by the pit a demon stole up behind him and whispered insulting blasphemies against God in his ears, which blasphemies Christian thought had proceeded from his own mind. This troubled him very much—more than any wrong he had done thus far on the way—because the wicked thoughts and words were so bitter and so utterly against the One he loved the most, the One who had done the most for him. Yet it seemed that he could not help thinking these words and whispering them to himself. But he did not know where the evil words came from nor how to stop his ears from hearing them.”
(Bunyan’s tomb, London, 2009)
Sometimes, we become so confused that we cannot hear our own voice. This happened to me this past week. Buffeted by the voice of accusation, I became very confused about my identity in Christ. About everything Christ, the One I love, had done for me. About the woman of God Christ has created me to be. Confusion loves to crowd our mind with everyone else’s voices, opinions, remarks and words. Before we know it, we are shaken to the core. I shouldn’t be surprised, actually, because the last year I have been working very hard on a new book project. Subject? Knowing your true spiritual identity in Christ. Ugh. Here, once again, is the cost of being a writer. The cost of pressing in. The cost of walking the narrow path.
My classes and I have been talking a lot about the two paths: the narrow path and the broad path. I know it is hard for them to understand Christian’s plight—they are so young. Some are frightened by Christian’s journey. Would they have the same fortitude in the face of such trials? I have had to ask myself that, again. It is hard to “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12, NIV). If I can be totally honest, sometimes I want to quit and turn back. Take the broad path. There, I said it. But, I don’t dwell there long, because I KNOW THE ONE I LOVE and I could never turn back from HIM. He is waiting for me to arrive at the Celestial City.
Last night, we had the great joy of welcoming our daughter, Candace, home. I had been waiting all day for her plane to land in Norfolk. To make a long story short, the airlines had called early in the day to let us know her flight from London had been delayed and therefore, her flight from Dulles to Norfolk was going to be delayed. So, instead of a 7:30 p.m. arrival, she was to arrive at 11:14 p.m. UGH. So, I busied myself all day—cleaning, shopping for all her favorite foods, wrapping a little love gift to place on her pillow, ordering festive “Americana” balloons to take to the airport and hanging a WELCOME HOME BANNER on the bannister. Rob and I decided to go to the gym for our usual Tuesday night workout, thinking we had plenty of time. When we returned home, Grant (who had come home for the event), let me know I had a call on my cell. Lo and behold, it was a USO Officer from the airport letting us know Candace was at the airport, waiting for her parent. My heart sunk. Ohhhh, we weren’t there when she landed! How anticlimactic! So, forty-five minutes later, we arrive at the airport, balloons in tow, to welcome home our weary world traveler.
All this to say, if I had a hard time waiting ALL DAY to see my dear daughter . . . just imagine how JESUS must anticipate our arrival to HIS home one day. And our arrival will be right on time. For you see, we are all just pilgrims, like Bunyan’s Christian, trying to make progress. Trying to defeat foes. Trying to take every though captive (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV). Trying to HEAR OUR OWN VOICE in order to remain TRUE to the ONE who fashioned us. Perhaps you have been in that place, where confusion drowns out your true voice. If so, encourage others who might feel discouraged and defeated. Speak peace and power into their lives and help them take those thoughts captive. I’d love to hear your stories. Will you share them with me? Has anyone every spoke a word to you that lifted your heart? Helped you find your way out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death?
You are the ONE true love.
Help us find our way out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Help us listen closely for YOUR voice.
Drown out the confusion with
the whisper of YOUR love.
We are YOUR pilgrims trying to
progress on the narrow path.