From his prison cell, the Puritan preacher John Bunyan wrote Pilgrims’s Progress, one of the greatest selling books of all time. It is a book I have not read in over 30 years, but it may be one of the most memorable books in my mind. It may be time, I reread it.
In the book, the main character, Christian, sets outs on a journey from his home in the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. How does he get there? By staying on the path. If Christian does not stay the course, but veers to the left or the right, he will be ensnared by the temptations of this world.
In the past few years, I have spent a good deal of time considering my own path. Where is it that I want to go? Once I figured it out, I had to answer the next question. How can I get there if I do not stay on the path?
The path is straight and narrow. You have to maintain constant vigilance to stay on it. On either side are the temptations, the distractions, the snares and the pitfalls. Procrastination, laziness, and all the other vices are waiting for you. They are calling out to you to stop only for a moment. And then another. And then one more time until you no longer remember what it is you are supposed to be doing. How do we continue the journey when we suddenly find ourselves longing to stop?
Discipline. Self-Control. Temperance. We continue our slow and steady pace. We know that the sugar-high of immediate gratification will eventually turn to the bitterness of regret. We continue the march, because the “what might have been” alternative is so dreadful that we dare not taste its fruit.
We all have our paths to take. Once discovered, you have to walk it. It is the only way to partake of the reward at the end of the journey. There are no shortcuts, and straying from it only leads to evil.
Do not turn to the right or left; remove your foot from evil. –Proverbs 4:27
Sometimes I take a moment and reflect on my past and wonder how I got to where I am today. Where I am today is not where I want to be tomorrow. I am not in a bad place now, but could it be better?
I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets. –David Herbert Lawrence
What are the things I regret the most as I look back upon my past? I would like to say it was just isolated incidences of making wrong choices, such as a moment of weakness or indecision that has always haunted me. Of course, those things have happened, but what I regret the most is the all the seemingly insignificant actions that led to those bigger mistakes. There were careless decisions I made that didn’t seem important at the time. But one decision leads to another, and eventually I found myself on a road that I didn’t intend to travel. What happens when you go down the wrong road? You are not where you are supposed to be. You are wasting time either trying to find a new route or backtracking back to the straight and narrow. Have you ever read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress? It is a book that I am always thinking of. All the temptations are trying to pull you off the road. They don’t want you to reach your destination.
I look back on all the time I have wasted. Not the time lost backtracking, but the time I so carelessly threw away. I remember the days I didn’t have any plans and so I slept in. I watched a little television or played a few video games until a little became the whole day. At the end of the day, I told myself I would do better. The next day, I would do it all over again. I didn’t have much discipline then, and I was too blind and too young to care enough to change. It is sad when you don’t appreciate the precious little time we are given. Often it is not appreciated until you are old and wondering where the time has gone.
Live each day as it were the last day of your life because, so far, it is. –Richard John Colangelo
The regrets I contemplate are a reminder. They are also my biggest fear. I am on the road I want to be on, which means all my decisions, even the seemingly insignificant ones, are important. My fear is that I slide again into complacency justifying the occasional bad decision. If I allow even one, could it lead to more?
It is the complacency that I fear the most, the fear that I could once again take that small detour and then blindly cruise down a road farther and farther away from my destination. All it takes is settling into mediocrity. All it takes is choosing to idly stand by and not live life to the fullest each and every day.
It is disgraceful, instead of proceeding ahead, to be carried along, and then suddenly, amid the whirlpool of events, to ask in a dazed way: “How did I get into this condition?” –Seneca’s Letter #37: On Allegiance to Virtue