Friday, November 21, 2008

The women in Pilgrim's Progress II

I love strong women. I think they are magnificent testimonies to Christ. Because ... they are combining things that the world can’t explain. They’re combining a sweet, tender, kind, loving, submissive, feminine beauty with this massive steel in their backs and theology in their brain. (John Piper, group discussion from T4G'08 HT Writing and Living)

In Pilgrim's Progress II, Christiana follows her husband on pilgrimage. With her travel her handmaid Mercy, Ruth to her Naomi, and her four sons, eager to tread in their father's footsteps. The garrulous village women try to prevent them leaving, mock them after they've gone, and quickly forget them in gossip about their flirtations. But Christiana and Mercy press on, confident that "the bitter must come before the sweet, and that also will make the sweet the sweeter". ...

One of my favourite scenes in Pilgrim's Progress is where Christiana braves the lions (persecution) and Giant Grim (the power of the state) on the neglected path to the Palace Beautiful (the persecuted church). She echoes Deborah, judge of Israel: "Though the highways have been unoccupied heretofore, and though the travellers have been made in times past to walk through by-paths, it must not be so now I am risen, now I am risen a mother in Israel" (Jud. 5:7). What a woman! ...

How beautiful the godly woman, and how lovely her graces! Her mouth gives wise instruction, her spirit is filled with a quiet trust, her heart is tender and humble, her hands overflow with mercy, her limbs are strong. Courageous, she dares to walk between lions and travel through the Valley of the Shadow. A mother in Israel, she nurtures and teaches the young. To be a woman like this is my heart's desire: and I hope yours, too. "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised" (Prov. 31:30).

What have you learned from the women in John Bunyan's life and Pilgrim's Progress? Would others describe you as a "strong woman": not bossy or overbearing, but gentle, humble in heart and quiet in spirit, with an inner core of strength which comes from trusting in Christ? If young and single, are you so in love with your Lord that no lesser love will do? If older and experienced, are you a "spiritual mother" to the women around you? Which womanly grace would you most like to grow in? Ask God to help you become the woman he wants you to be.

Read the rest at EQUIP book club today.

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