(this post will be short, because, it’s bedtime.)
The Pilgrim’s Progress is not divided into chapters in the original version, so I’m dividing it up myself into sections. These sections don’t actually exist, except inside my own head.
One of the things I’ve always LOVED about PP is the names. At first I didn’t like it, because, in my little child’s abridged version (that book is seriously worn, and I used to have nightmares about Apollyon), it leaves out certain details.
I noticed right off that characters are named for, well, their character. For example, some of the names include:
Mr. Worldly Wise Man
You get the idea. I thought, at first, then, that the condemnation of the characters wasn’t fair: they couldn’t help it if their name was Obstinate. In my mind, the characters were incapable of coming to Christ because their personality had been set in stone and was unchangeable because, well, you couldn’t help your name.
And then I read the Pilgrim’s Progress in full. This is seriously the only thing I got out of the original version of PP as an 11/12 year old. Anything else I read I didn’t understand. I was able to pick up on this one thing. Ready? Here it is: Christian’s name wasn’t always Christian.
Shocked? I know I was.
Wanna know the name Christian was born with? Graceless. Wanna know how many people know that? Exactly. That’s the point. Christian’s original name was Graceless. And nobody really knows that.
This blew me away when I first read that. It showed me that characters don’t always have to be like their names. I started thinking: What would my original name have been? Well, I know the answer to that, but it’s one of my darkest secrets. Jacq’s the only one (who still talks to me) that knows about it. Maybe someday I’ll talk about it, but not today. (Candyland.)
I’ve got no idea what my name is now. I’ll let you know when… when I love Jesus?
But it also showed me something I didn’t think about it until now: no one remembers Christian’s former name. When a person becomes a new creature in Christ, no one remembers or knows who he used to be.
All that and I haven’t even gotten to what I wanted to talk about. I’m going to hurry through this, because I need to go read the bible so I can go to bed.
As the story opens… well, actually first, there’s this super long barely readable poem called The Author’s Apology for this Book, in which he writes this huge poem about how he wasn’t sure he should publish the book or not… bla bla. I read it to say I’d read it and move on.
As the story opens, we see a man whose name is not at first given. He’s severely distressed. He’s just read in the bible (which is referred to only as “his little book” or “his book.”) that the city he lives in, called Destruction, is going to be, well, destroyed.
At first he tries to keep quiet about this knowledge, but then he eventually tells his wife and children. His wife flips out (understandably, I mean, within the context of the story there’s no reason he shouldn’t appear nuts.) and sends him to bed.
When we feel our need for a savior, and feel how sinful we are, it can result in depression. Even if it doesn’t, sometimes our family and friends think we’re crazy, and, that really sucks. Especially when they don’t believe.
At this point, Christian does not love Jesus. I think this is a very important point to bring out, because so far all the book has talked about is how Christian– Graceless at this point, I’m just going to call him that till his name officially changes– is terrified because of his impending doom. He feels a burden on his back (representing the weight of sin) and is literally torturing himself because he’s scared and doesn’t know what to do.
At first as I read this I thought about all the people I know who are Christians because of God’s love. I was not happy, at first, about how God was being portrayed as some vengeful vindictive God. (The fact that I mostly see him as such is beside the point.)
But then I realized: Graceless doesn’t know any of that yet. He doesn’t see any hope of a loving God because he doesn’t know about it. (How he manages that when he reads his bible I don’t know, but moving on.) Graceless needs someone to show him that salvation is possible. That God loves him, and will provide a way for him.
And… it’s been a while since I’ve even read my children’s version, but, I remember it showing more of the love of God than what I have seen here. Maybe it doesn’t get better, but I’d like to think it does. If it doesn’t, you’ll be hearing about this again.
Graceless had to grow. He didn’t love God because he wasn’t yet capable. His stone cold heart had, so far, been untouched by anything except fear. Graceless is on the very first step of that ladder –seeing his need. He hasn’t seen Jesus respond to his need, therefore his character is not able to love Him. Is this making sense? I feel like I’m not explaining this well enough.
Christian did not start as Christian: his name does not change to Christian until he starts on his journey. Before he starts on his journey he does not love God. But by the end of it, he does. Graceless/Christian doesn’t love God yet, but he will. Soon he will not only see God’s love, he will be able to respond to it.
Christian did not start out loving Jesus, and neither did/do I. I don’t honestly know when I will, or even if I’m capable. Maybe, because I haven’t really truly experienced the love of God for me, my character currently isn’t able to. But one thing we can learn from The Pilgrim’s Progress, even if it’s not stated over and over in the narrative, is that people’s characters change. People’s names change. I can change. I can cultivate and form my character in such a way that I will be able to see the love of God, and respond to it with a love greater than anything else. Dolls. Money. Books. Close friends. Someday, if I work hard at it, this will happen.
Just like it happened to Christian.
What was my name? That’s not yet to be public knowledge. What’s my name now? I don’t know. I’ll have to start my journey to find out. Just like Graceless/Christian.