As I was walking through the wilderness of this world, I came to a place where there was a cave. I laid down in that place to sleep, and as I slept I had a dream in which I saw a man dressed in rags standing in a certain place and facing away from his own house. He had a Book in his hand and a great burden on his back. As I looked, I saw him open the Book and read out of it, and as he read he wept and trembled. Unable to contain himself any longer, he broke out with a sorrowful cry, saying, “What shall I do?” (Bunyan, John. THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN MODERN ENGLISH. Bridge-Logos Publishers, Florida. 1998. pg. 3.)
The hot, desert sun cascaded over my shoulders and down my arms as I stood in awe, gazing at the indescribable wonder before me. A river did this? This beautiful carving, like the sculpture of an artist, was in fact the work of God. And I was thankful for the opportunity to see it in person. I had driven across the United States and back again. But this is not where I began. This was a result of grace. First I had to walk through "the wilderness of this world".
Like John Bunyan's character, Christian, I was conflicted but not consciously searching for the "Celestial City". I did not realize I needed a Savior...until my burden became so insanely heavy and then I pleaded for One. But who would come? A fireman? A policeman? Some bigger-than-life comic book character? Who had already come? Was it possible to ever have peace?
A fire burned within me yet I was seemingly of two minds. That is where I started...not in quietness, trust, or strength (Isaiah 30:15). But in loud, deafening foolishness which made me scream out (in an attempt to shout over it) in repetitive petition. But this was the norm for me in this season... high stress. Was there any other state of being?
I know the Book mentioned in Bunyan's writing. I had even tried, uselessly, to apply its written laws and way of living to my mundane days. But it was all for not...legalism would not bring me harmony, serenity, tranquility, justice. I would toil in vain. The motions without heart or purpose were worthless...pointless. I could not save myself from that which weighed me down. It was not until grace the Book became my life.
So what did I do? I went along my course as it was designed. Each stepping stone lovingly placed before me. But I was blind to this initially. Everything was all about me. I was self-centered, self-absorbed, self-serving, and seemingly self-sufficient. Thankfully and fortunately for me though, God knows my heart despite my words and actions. For thirty years my hours were filled with worldliness and God was limited to Sunday mornings. Then, slowly most moments became about Him and I “squeezed in” everything else (if I had time). This did not happen over night. It was a progression.
How did I get to this point? How did I get beyond myself?
The Grand Canyon, though massive, was deceiving in appearance. The Colorado River appeared so small and innocent on the canyon floor. My feet felt as though they were in an oven as the sun beat down on my dark shoes. The air was crisp and fresh, like a spring morning while the dew is still on the ground and the birds are chirping cheerfully as if to welcome the new day.
Sin, like the Colorado River may not look like much (from a distance) but over time it can create a gorge between us and God (which makes me think of the “great chasm” mentioned in Luke 16:26).
Faith. Hope. Love: Introduction Chapter