A British man named Ed Stafford just completed a 4,200 mile journey to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. It took him him two and a half years, and cost nearly $100,000 dollars.
Stafford is a former captain in the British army who decided to walk the length of the Amazon "because no one has done it before." Along the way, Stafford has seen huge anaconda snakes, endured leafcutter ants, and suffered several illnesses. He even caught and ate piranha during his jungle adventure!
This story got me thinking about our pilgrimage here on earth. Whether we traverse the length of the Amazon River, or just travel to the next county, the fact still remains that we are all on a long and arduous journey - the great adventure we call life.
Pilgrim's Progress, the classic work by John Bunyan, is a wonderful example of this earthly pilgrimage we are on. The main character, Christian, is on a journey to the Celestial City. But before he gets there, he must deal with many different people - like Obstinate and Pliable, Mistrust and Hypocrisy, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and the Giant Despair. He also must endure all kinds of trials and tribulations - like the Slough of Despond, the Country of Conceit, Vanity Fair, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This allegory aptly illustrates the highs and lows we will go through in this life as we toil and struggle onward, always looking forward to the City of God, our heavenly home.
While traveling in this foreign land (or "enemy territory" as some would say), it is easy to forget who we are and why we are here. We must take time to remind ourselves and our fellow travelers what we are doing here and what the goal is.
The story is told of a man who went to visit his longtime friend, a British military officer stationed in an African jungle. When the friend entered the officer’s hut, he was startled to see him dressed in formal attire and seated at a table set with silverware and fine china. The visitor asked why he was all dressed up and seated at a table so sumptuously arrayed in the jungle. The officer explained, "Once a week I follow this routine to remind myself of who I am--a British citizen. I want to maintain the customs of my real home and live according to the codes of British conduct, no matter how those around me live."
(a good reminder for christian pilgrims living in a foreign land!)