A quip I heard years ago came to mind this morning. (I think the quote was attributed to C.S. Lewis, although I never verified he said it.) It went something like this:
“Yes, there will be a library filled with books in heaven. It will be filled with all the books Christians were unselfish enough to loan to others.”
Catchy quip — one that flashes through my mind whenever I’m thankful for a book loaned or given to me. And so, this morning, I thought of the quote when I read from a dear friend’s years-ago gift.
I remember her arriving at my house with the copy of Little Pilgrim’s Progress and explaining how much she’d enjoyed Helen L. Taylor’s simplified retelling of John Bunyan’s classic. She thought I might want to read the young-reader version of Bunyan’s somewhat-hard-to-understand allegory out loud to my children. What she didn’t know was that my own really tired mind actually needed the easier-level retelling, too.
He’s traveled through Vanity Fair, where “all day long the people were passing busily up and down. They wore fine clothes and spent their whole time in pleasing themselves.” He’s observed the boy named Passion, who “wishes to have his pleasure now, instead of at the proper time” and Patience, who instead wisely chooses to wait for the King’s gifts, “treasures that cannot be spoiled.” He has passed through the Dark Valley and been comforted by the voice of a fellow pilgrim who “was repeating aloud some of the beautiful words that were written in the King’s Book.”
Now Little Christian, almost at the end of his journey, is helped by his friend Hopeful and two Shining Ones. As he nears the Celestial City, he must cross through fearful, rushing waters before he sees the King in His beauty:
“Little Christian clasped his hands together as he felt the cold waters of the Dark River rushing round his body. Hopeful kept close to him and tried to hold him up, but the little pilgrim soon lost his footing and cried out, “I am sinking! The water is all going over me!”
“No, it is only rough,” said Hopeful. “Do not be so frightened. I can feel the ground at the bottom of the river, and it is quite firm. We shall cross safely, and then we shall have no more trouble.”
“Perhaps you will cross,” whispered Christian faintly, “but I am sure I cannot. I shall never see the King, and I did so wish to live with Him always!”
“You will live with Him. Look up, Christian, and don’t think about the water.”
” … I am sure we need not be frightened,” said Hopeful. “Take hold of my hand again. The Prince will never break His promise.”
Today, whether you face the frightful Dark River, or fight the intimidation and seduction of life lived in Vanity Fair, remember with me the Prince’s promise — a promise He never breaks. He makes this promise to you:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior … Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you … Fear not, for I am with you …” Isaiah 43:1-5
Those aren’t just words to read and soon forget. Those are words of life. Words spoken to you by the King of the universe. Words of promise, spoken to you because you are precious, and honored, and He loves you. And He, the Holy One, your Savior, will never break His promise.