Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Living Like a Traveller

I've been reading this book called "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment", written in 1648, by a man named Jeremiah Burroughs. Aside from the Bible, I'm not sure I've ever read (I mean actually reading, word for word, in entirety) a book this old. Anyway, I have been having to plug along a couple pages at a time because it's so utterly meaty and full of wisdom and insight that to read any more would cause brain overload for me (And, for the record, I'm OK with that... I don't want to act like a brainiac when I know that I personally would miss major points if I tried to breeze through a book like this!).

I came across this passage (p.94-95), and just had to share it with you. I hope it does for you what it did for me: made me think and really challenged me about how I view this world and my time in it.

While I live in the world my condition is to be but a pilgrim, a stranger, a traveller, and a soldier. Now rightly to understand this, not only being taught it by rote, so that I can speak the words over, but when my soul is possessed with the consideration of this truth, that God has set me in this world, not as in my home but as a mere stranger and a pilgrim who is travelling to another home, and that I am here a soldier in my warfare, I say, a right understanding of this is a mighty help to contentment.

For instance, when a man is at home, if things are not according to his desire he will find fault and is not content; but if a man travels, perhaps he does not meet with conveniences as he desires-- his diet is not as at home, and his bed is not as at home-- yet this thought may moderate his spirit: I am a traveller. ...If a man meets with bad weather, he must be content; it is traveller's fare, we say. ...When you are at sea, though you have not as many things as you have at home, you are not troubled at it; you are contented. Why? Because you are at sea. You are not troubled when storms arise, and though many things are otherwise than you would have them at home you are still quieted with the fact that you are at sea.

...
Thus it should be with us in this world, for the truth is, we are all in this world but as seafaring men, tossed up and down on the waves of the sea of this world, and our haven is Heaven; here we are travelling, and our home is a distant home in another world. ...Though we meet with travellers' fare sometimes, yet it should not be grievous to us. The Scripture tells us plainly that we must behave ourselves here as pilgrims and strangers: 'Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul' (1 Peter 2:11). Consider what your condition is, you are pilgrims and strangers; so do not think to satisfy yourselves here. .

..So let us not be troubled when we see that other men have great wealth and we have not. -- Why? We are going away to another country; you are, as it were, only lodging here for a night. If you were to live a hundred years, in comparison to eternity it is not as much as a night, it is as though you were travelling, and had come to an inn. And what madness is it for a man to be discontented because he has not got what he sees there, seeing he may be going away again within less than a quarter of an hour?

Wow. So this stop here (wherever "here" is for you) is barely a blip on the screen. It can all seem so monumental, but I think Burroughs is highlighting a very important part of contentment: that we put our present concerns in light of the length and importance of eternity.

It definitely helps me (in terms of contentment) to think of myself as a traveller-- what say you?

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