sleet + Bunyan

There are books that change your life all at one time and there are books that change it incrementally and consistently. Each time you pick it up, something new is revealed. Better still is when the revelation sickens you because it displays your own inadequacies, mistakes, depravity, weakness, and ultimately your need for salvation.

I have found many books to be life-changing, both in small and large ways. I’ve only found a handful of books that, when opened every couple years, make a refreshed but just-as-powerful impact. These books are treasures which I am deeply grateful for.

This morning our farm welcomed freezing temperatures and a disappointing forecast. We were told we would find ourselves under 6 – 10 inches of snow, and yet we watched ice and sleet pour down heavily – making our porches (and driveway) veritable ice skating rinks. We had sledding planned but inside we stayed. And what a perfect day to light a fire (I tend to think *any* day is a perfect day for a fire, come to think of it,) and read. Truth be told, most of our days are spent reading, but within the last year, reading has become an even more cherished and regular activity. We already had reading as a central tenant of our educational philosophy, but somehow it became even more (to borrow a word from the current cultural lexicon) “essential.”

The world is rotting. I’m not a pessimist, I promise. It is. As Christians, we know that Earth is wasting away, but there are times and seasons when it seems to be in a more acute state of decline. We are in one of these times. We have been for quite awhile. I remember having similar feelings in 2010 but I ushered them to their own mental compartment – I had a toddler and a newborn and we had just bought a new home. It was easy to ignore my sinking feelings. But, here I am again…..and the feelings has been rushing back in the last two years or so. There is a level of decay in our culture, our families, our government, our schools, our communities, that is unlike anything in our history and that stays with me. Most importantly, because my husband and I have the task of raising and guiding three precious daughters. We desire them to choose truth over evil, and the Lord over worldly desires. I’m not sure I can explain the burden on my heart when I think of how immense that task and responsibility is. And so, it makes it all the more important to surround them with the good, the true, and the beautiful – always guiding them back to Him and His promises. Even if the world stayed in its current state when my little birds are leaving the nest, they’d have the cards stacked against them. We all know that things will have darkened even further in the next decade…..and so, I pray. I pray, use just about every moment to build up their character through the words of the Savior, and…..read.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the wonder of books that will walk alongside you time after time after time. Recently I began one of these books with the girls. If I’m honest, I wondered if it might disappoint me by not “making sense” to my girls as much as I’d like it to. I was nervous some of the rich symbolism might fly straight over their heads. Perhaps they wouldn’t see how powerful the allegorical prose truly is. I would have finally found a season when this book didn’t work its magic.

I was, of course, wrong.

It’s hard to put into words how books make us feel, but if I could commend a book to you, at this present moment, it would be, without equivocation, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. The story of “Christian” and his journey toward the “Celestial City” is all of us. I dare you to read it and not see yourself on almost every single page.

It is a most worthy book and one that I know will grab you by the throat and heart – it will make you feel, and lament, and recognize yourself. Although written in 1678, all still holds true. This, of course, shouldn’t be surprising as nothing is new under the sun. And yet, I’m amazed at the accuracy Bunyan managed. He pinpoints the sinful vices and roadblocks that ensnare the believer so perfectly. It makes sense that it has never gone out of print.

This is likely the shortest/least professional book recommendation you’ll ever read, because that wasn’t really my intent with this post. I was just staring out the window, watching sleet pouring off our roof, and thought….”There’s got to be other Christians out there that haven’t read this book. I want them to read it.”

And so here I am.

In a dark time like the one we are living in…..Christ first. Always.

And then books.

Books to inform, books to challenge, books to laugh, books to comfort, books to find beauty when the world feels ugly.

***

Edited to add: If you have younger children, or you just want a softer/shorter introduction to this wonderful story, I would start here. It’s illustrations are lovely and it is as close to perfect as a re-telling can be.

4 Comments

  1. I just picked up Dangerous Journey! My kids are 4, 3 & 1 but I know we’ll be reading this one together before we know it. Also, my husband has not read Pilgrim’s Progress yet so I’m encouraging him to do so.

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  2. My son and I recently finished Part I. We read it very slowly through (he was 7 when we started) over almost two years. Every time I closed the book for our weekly reading doubting anything could have possibly landed, my son would have some beautiful kernel of truth that he would (embarrassed to say) surprise me! There was something really wonderful about taking it slow and steady over time that made the completion of Pilgrim’s journey all the sweeter for us both!

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  3. We just recently watched the animated version of Pilgrim’s Progress (in collaboration with the Getty’s) It is very well done. About a quarter way through it my 9 year old said “that burden is our sin isn’t it?” I cried. I underestimated how they would receive it and perceive it. We had read Taylor’s version several years ago and I’ve been nervous about introducing my girls to the original, thinking they wouldn’t “get it.” I’m pulling it off the shelf today. Thanks for the encouragement!

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