In the Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan talks about the restful arbor that awaits Christian on his journey to the Celestial City.
In times of struggle in my life I have clung to that picture and looked forward to the R&R God will provide in order to prepare me for the next leg of my walk with him. When I am discouraged and spiritually footsore the image of a fragrant arbor, with a comfy bench where I may sit in the blessed shade and be cooled by heavenly breezes strengthens me to carry on.
To the weary the concept of rest is irresistible. But rest is one of those words, like hot and cold or light and dark, that only has meaning when contrasted with its opposite. If there were no work or struggle there could be no rest.
The restful arbor is not meant to be a retirement home.
The Christian life on this earth is one of constantly striving for greater obedience, greater faith and a closer walk with our Savior. Only when we see him face to face will our journey to perfect peace be complete.
In my years of marriage to a minister we relocated, on average, every three years. While every move was stressful, each one was also a chance for a fresh start. It was my tradition to always buy a new broom for our new home. That was my way of affirming the need to sweep away painful memories and obstacles and make each day’s forward path as smooth as possible.
In my recently published mystery novel the heroine experiences some devastating events that leave her feeling defeated. She begins to heal when she sits before the fireplace and observes how the build up of ashes is choking the life from the fire. She recognizes that she is letting the ashes and memories of her recent experiences prevent her from healing and moving on.
We all have unhappy memories and regrets that can stifle our vitality and hinder our faith walk, if we let them. If the ashes from your past have safely cooled, it is time to sweep them away and let in the fresh air.
The first month of a new year is the perfect time to take a good look at the progress of your faith journey.
God provides the restful arbors of life for rest, reflection and rejuvenation. If you have been taking up residence in one, perhaps it is time to get a new attitude and use it to sweep away unproductive anger, hurt, regrets and grief.
If we want to reach the Celestial City it is necessary to leave the shady arbor and step out again into the sunshine.