Last week, my friend Arlene gave me a book to read with my kids. It’s called “Little Pilgrim’s Progress” by Helen Taylor. It’s a retelling of John Bunyan’s classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress.” I read the abridged version of his book years ago, and honestly I don’t remember much of it! So I was very excited to start reading the simplified version to my two oldest kids. Every night (okay, almost every night), we cuddle up on the couch and read a few chapters together. My daughter Laci has especially gotten into it, and it has sparked different conversations between us about our pilgrimage to Heaven.
My childhood home is in Marysville, Washington. Having lived there for the better part of 18 years, it holds many precious memories! My mom is in the process of selling that house, but I am so glad it’s going to stay in the family – my aunt and uncle are buying it! My husband’s childhood was much different – he moved quite a bit when he was growing up. His dad was in the Navy, so Jon was born in Japan, lived in Oak Harbor, then Florida, and finally moved to Marysville before starting high school. I’m so grateful that God brought their family to my hometown when He did, and that He crossed our paths when He did!
Jon and I got married in December 2005. In our first 9 years of marriage, we’ve lived in 8 different homes in 4 different towns. Right now we’re renting, and we have just over six months until our lease is up. We love the town we’re in, and we believe God opened the door for us to come here, so we’re faced with the question – should we keep renting or is it time to buy our first house?
I would love for my kids to grow up in one house like I did – to have that childhood home full of memories that they can look back on. But I would love even more to give them a pilgrimage perspective – that this earth is not our home – that our citizenship is in Heaven. That we’re only here for a short time, we’re just passing through… we’re running the race that He has marked out for us.
Webster’s defines pilgrimage as “a journey to a holy place, a journey to a special or unusual place, a journey of a pilgrim, especially one to a shrine or a sacred place; the course of life on earth.” As believers we are on a journey to such a special place – Heaven! The course of this life on earth isn’t meaningless, it’s meaningful! It’s our earthly pilgrimage to our Heavenly home.
Here are some Bible verses on the topic of pilgrimage…
Philippians 3:17-21 (The Message) ~
“Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.”
Jesus talked about the narrow road that leads to life, and how only a few find it – but the road that leads to destruction is wide and many find it (Matthew 7:13-14). Easy street is a dead-end street! The broad and wide road may be easy on the earth but its eternal destination is not worth it! We must stay on the narrow path the God set before us, not giving way to fear or distraction. How we live our life on earth shows God if we want to spend eternity with Him or apart from Him.
Psalm 84:5-7 (NIV84) ~
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools (blessings). They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”
I have always loved this passage! We are blessed (happy) when our strength is in God, and when our hearts are set on pilgrimage! I researched the Valley of Baca a little bit, and found out that it means valley of weeping or lamentation. It’s a valley in Palestine that is depicted as gloomy and sterile. So the thought is – when the pilgrims pass through the Valley of Baca, the make it a place of springs, like a fountain of life. In his commentary on Psalm 84, Matthew Henry said, “Our way to heaven lies through a valley of Baca, but even that may be made a well if we make a due improvement of the comforts God has provided for the pilgrims to the heavenly city.” I love this! When we go through valleys, lows, tough seasons, hard times – we make it a place of life, we overflow with God’s light, love and glory. Why? Because the One who makes all things new is alive in us! Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world! And we know that our citizenship is in Heaven – we’re on our way to a place so much better than this!
Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16 (The Message) ~
“By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.”
“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.”
I want to be like Abraham! He was okay feeling like an outsider and stranger in this world because he was looking for his true home. I love that Abraham didn’t settle – he didn’t give up and go back to his old country, and he didn’t stop along the way and get comfortable. He kept going, even though he had no idea where he was going! He walked by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 5:1-10 (The Message) ~
“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”
“For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our ‘tents’ again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming. But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.”
Every time I read that last passage I get something new out of it! I pray I wouldn’t droop my head or drag my feet any longer! I don’t want to whine or complain or get caught up in the world’s way of doing things. When I trip on a rut in the road or a rock in my path, I want to get up a little quicker each time. And through it all, I want my eyes – my focus – to be on God and cheerfully pleasing Him.
All that to say – we may end up buying a house… or we might rent again. I just want my heart to be in the right place. My hope isn’t in the temporal – my security isn’t in a building. My heart is set on eternity. My trust is in God. I want to pass on a legacy of faith to my kids – not just a house. God opened a door to where we are today, and I pray we wouldn’t settle until we reach our Heavenly home.
Please note: If you own a home – praise God! If you rent – praise God! I don’t think one is better than the other. They both have their pros and cons. But I believe God wants us to have a right perspective – a Heavenly one. We are on an earthly pilgrimage to our Heavenly home!
This is me and my incredible daughter, Laci 😀
Here are the links to the books I mentioned in case you want to check them out!
- Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen L. Taylor – http://www.amazon.com/Little-Pilgrims-Progress-Bunyans-Classic/dp/0802447996/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416522282&sr=8-1&keywords=little+pilgrims+progress+helen+taylor
- Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – http://www.amazon.com/Pilgrims-Progress-Wordsworth-Classics-Literature/dp/1853264687/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416522339&sr=1-2&keywords=pilgrim%27s+progress+john+bunyan
Here’s another Brooke Fraser song that I love that reminded me a bit of our pilgrimage to Him:
- “Hymn” by Brooke Fraser – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRW8WV5cFaU