In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Pilgrim sets out on a journey and soon discovers that companions are welcomed along the road of life. It is a dangerous journey and it is only a matter of time that we will either need help or be the one to offer help to another.
In thinking about being pilgrims together in light of “disarming love” and what that means, I had to go back to my defining post. What I discovered is the love that has the power to disarm a person is transmitted through another person. The transfer of love from one person to another requires vulnerability which leaves the door wide open to pain and heartache.
Over the past couple of days a friend of mine showed me her heartbreak. Julie had demonstrated love to someone who does not know how to receive it. This other person is starving for love but will not and perhaps cannot trust people, I suppose for a variety of reasons, and therefore is unable to receive love. I’m not making any kind of a diagnosis here, I am simply remembering: people reaching out to me, doing their best to help me and show me that I am lovable and all I could do was push people away, even though I too was hungry for love. What was wrong with me? I believed that I was unlovable and unwanted. It is not really that simple, people are complicated, but I have come to believe that the lies I believed about myself, other people, and the world are at the core of the issues surrounding my trouble with relationships.
I’ve only known Julie for about 18 months and our friendship has grown and we do love each other. When she called me, I could hear the pain in her voice. So we’ve been journeying on the pilgrim road the past couple of days. There has been struggle. When we do our best to love and it is rejected and even worst unappreciated and called something less than loving, the pain from that is real. To see Julie hurting over this has made my own heartache and at times I have wanted to take matters into my own hands, but wisdom says to show restraint. There are two things that I realize: man’s anger does not produce the righteousness of God and it is hard to control my anger when it is fueled by love for my friend. I wanted to defend in an offensive way. Submitting to the LORD, I see that I must continue to detach with love as I have counseled Julie to do so.
Most of us are born into a family. We were not meant to walk through this life alone, yet more and more people are doing just that. Isolation is more common than it ought to be. Like Bunyan’s Pilgrim sometimes we need to walk alone to become aware of the fact that we need each other. Without our fellow travelers we can not experience the love of God as it was meant to be experienced. One of Jesus’ names is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” Jesus too was born into a family, had earthly parents and siblings, came to redeem God’s children, and demonstrated the love of God through his living and dying with and for His people.
This is just a glimpse of two days with a couple of pilgrims. Our pilgrimage lasts a life time and it is worth taking time to pause and reflect on the trip thus far every once in a while. May each of you journey on in faith especially when you question whether or not it is worth going on. It always is.