From the moment of birth, every one of us is on a pilgrimage, whether we know it or not. For we are all born as strangers in a strange land. Many never discover this crucial truth. They merely settle down in this world, seeing it as home and doing the best they can to make a life. But alienation from God, being far from His presence, is the lot of everybody upon entering life. Our true home is where He is, and the true purpose of our life is to find our way back home.
Even as newborn Christians, very few realize this fact; some never do, their whole Christian life a struggling mixture of the spiritual and the worldly. And for those who never come to Christ, life is but one long series of futile attempts to fill the void in their hearts, only to find that nothing, no created thing, works. They live and die never knowing who they really are, who God intended them to be.
John Bunyan, in his great epic work, Pilgrim’s Progress, allegorically depicts this great journey: from a fallen nature in a fallen world to the very throne of God. Bunyan documents the many detours, delays, temptations, dead-ends, and pitfalls the enemy stealthily plants along the way. Of course, Christian eventually makes his way through them all and reaches his destination, the Celestial City. For God through Christ has made a way where they seems to be no way!
King Solomon wrote of this same sojourn of the soul, poetically portrayed in the life of the Shulamite maiden and her great love for the King (Christ). The young maiden finds her normal Christian experience to fall short of what she longs for, and the “Song of Songs” is the beautiful account of her quest for more of God. Through a slow and often painful process involving the surrender of her own will, her very self, the Shulamite and her Lover-King are finally united in holy oneness. At the end of the Song, all that remains is for the maiden to be released from her mortal shell, so that her union with her Lover might be even more intimate and complete. She indeed had found her way back home.
It is not my intention to improve upon Bunyan or Solomon. But with allegory and poetry, there is a need for interpretation, which of course makes room for misinterpretation. Furthermore, each of those works can be seen as a mere story, making it difficult for some to identify with the central figures. As I said earlier, this pilgrimage is everybody’s journey, and what I intend to do is simply give an account of my own, with the express purpose of helping fellow pilgrims along their way, hopefully a narrative with no need for interpretation.
The way back home for us all must pass through at least three distinct stages of maturing in Christ; what I have chosen to call: The Scales, Rest, and Exchanged Life. The scales mentality is a leftover from our life before coming to the Lord, a product of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which we unwittingly drag into our new life in Christ. We are taught early on, and grow to expect certain results if we do what is “right.” Picture an old-fashioned set of scales: load down the left side, and the right side will automatically be lifted up. So we study, then work hard, try our best to be honest, love our children, obey the laws of the land, go to church perhaps, look out for our fellow man, etc., etc. All good things to be sure, which, according to the scales, should lift up the right side and make us successful, happy and fulfilled, with all the good things life has to offer. Sometimes that is the case, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. But we tend to romantically cling to this notion nonetheless.
Learning to rest, the next stage of the journey, so eloquently explained in Hebrews 4, is simply believing in all that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have spoken, regardless of the consequences or apparent results from acting upon and living out Their Words. In other words, the scales must be thrown away, and the gate of deeper faith in the grace and goodness of God entered.
After learning to rest, a believer ever so gradually exchanges his own life for the indwelling Life of Christ. For resting in God requires ceasing from our own work and submitting our will to the will of the Father, even as the man Jesus did. He lived out the Life of the Father, and we must allow the Life of Christ to live itself out through us. There is no other way to reach journey’s end.
The twists and turns of the way back home are many and well-disguised by the enemy of our souls; the last thing Satan wants is for any of us to complete our pilgrimage: for this will eventually lead to his undoing and final defeat, Christ becoming all-in-all and the sum of all things in the lives of His people, Father’s eternal purpose finally fulfilled.
So come along with me as a fellow pilgrim; let’s share part of our journey together. Perhaps we will learn a few things from each other that will help us both along our way. May we both remember this: above all things, we must not let anything keep us from making it all the way back home. Father is waiting there with open arms.