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Journey through life.

Had John Bunyan been alive today, he might well have seen his pilgrim's progress through life on earth and eventually to the celestial city in another way. He would then have said:

I saw in my dream a river winding its way through many different varieties of countryside, some beautifully scenic but some arid, rugged and hostile. My attention was immediately attracted by a river that eventually thundered over a towering waterfall. On the river I saw many boats. I was particularly impressed by their diversity in size, color, shape, design and quality. At first glance, one couldn't help feeling jealousy toward the owners of the more magnificent craft and sympathy for those in the poorer vessels. One peculiarity I noticed about the river--whereas a normal river has tributaries running into it, this river had tributaries running out of it. Each tributary terminated in a waterfall. Although the majority of the boats stayed in the mainstream until the final waterfall, some turned off into earlier tributaries and so had a much shorter journey--their boat was destroyed sooner than those that remained in the main course of the stream. One thing they all had in common: They were heading relentlessly for a waterfall, over which they all tumbled to their destruction. I thought it a terrible sadness that even the most beautiful of the vessels, with all its valuable contents, would eventually be destroyed and damaged.

I realized that his was a picture of every man's life and thought of the words in Scripture: ". . .it is appointed unto all men once to die . . . ." But while I was thus musing, I noticed something that turned my despair to hope and joy. Hovering high over the river were many helicopters. Over each craft dangled a life line with a harness that also provided a two-way telephone communication with the pilot flying overhead, who could see all the hazards in the path of the boat. Only when the hatch in the roof of the boat's cabin was opened could the life line be seen. When the boat's occupant recognized it, he could strap the harness around him. I thought of the account of a brave member of the king's court lowering ropes to pull the prophet Jeremiah out of the dungeon from where he could not have escaped; of Jesus Christ, who affirmed that He had come down from heaven for the express purpose of saving the lost; and of the assurance we have been given that the "gift of God is eternal life."

Fastened to the harness was a book of instructions giving clear guidance on how to attach the harness and on the use of the telephone. It contained much else to help the navigators and to prepare them for the life promised if they were rescued. But the people in the boats seldom opened their top hatches, so they were unable to look up and were oblivious to everything except what they could see through the windows of their boats. I saw with joy that when those with harnesses reached the waterfall, their boats were carried over and destroyed--but the occupants were winched up to safety. On the other hand, the boats of passengers without the proper life lines were hurled over the waterfall and carried their occupants with them. I couldn't help remembering Saint Paul's view of people traveling to alternative destinations, either "on their way to ruin" or "on the way to salvation."

As I pondered the scene and examined the behavior of the yachtsmen more closely, their attitudes toward their boats and the priorities in their lives seemed unbelievably strange. Most were preoccupied with the quality, condition and prestige value of their boats. It never occurred to them to peep through the hatches of their cabins, in spite of their companions, who had opened their hatches, grasped the offered life lines and hailed the others on megaphones. They told the good news, not only of promised deliverance from doom ahead but of communication with the pilot above, who with his view of the whole river was eager to help in any way. Yet many of those with a life line appeared indifferent to their friends' peril. Moreover, they didn't seem to recognize their good fortune or the enormous cost met by Another to mount the rescue operations.

In my dream I wandered down to the riverbank to examine the behavior of these navigators more closely. The occupant of a boat with a life line, far and away the most valuable thing any boat could have, might actually look out the window and be envious of a fellow traveler with a craft more luxurious but without a life line. "How could it be," I asked myself, "that men and women could be so blind that they view the improvement of their boats of greater importance than looking up and searching diligently for a life line to grasp and make their own?" To think that such trivial and temporary requirements as food and drink and clothes and amusements should apparently blind them to the hazards that lay ahead! Their only hope lay in being anchored to some source of security outside the moving waters. But those whose hatches were closed fast were well aware of the waterfall ahead and were consequently spending much time contriving life-saving devices, such as rockets they could strap to their backs. There was no evidence that any of these homemade devices had ever been affective. Why should all this effort be expended on a fruitless endeavor when a life line of guaranteed reliability was freely available if only they would open their hatches, look up and grasp it? These passengers would much prefer to strive to achieve security, no matter how flimsy, by their own devices, than to admit their utter inability and cry to Another for help.

Most of those with life lines had secured them during the early part of their voyage. Only a few had done so later. It appeared that the hatches were easier to open when they were new. Later, if kept shut, the hinges rusted, and debris clogged the joints and made opening much more difficult; but certainly some voyagers managed to pry their hatches open and grasp the offered life line, even as they were approaching the waterfall. Nevertheless, it was obviously very dangerous to wait until this late stage.

The attitude and behavior of those who had acquired their harnesses varied considerably. Some were obviously peaceful, joyful and confident in their new-found hope and security, whereas others were constantly fretful and wondering whether their life lines would prove trustworthy. What a pity, I mused, to spoil a potentially happy and fruitful life by constant worry that could achieve no purpose.

I was pleased to see that some of those who had availed themselves of the life lines were obviously eager to share not only the security they felt but all the benefits they derived from using their telephone of communication with their neighbors, whose hatches were closed. As a consequence their vision was limited to what they could see by looking horizontally through the cabin windows. For them the realms of vertical dimension were so completely ignored as to be noneexistent. In order to help their neighbors, some with life lines drew their boats alongside and would cross over and visit with them when sick, bring them provisions and help them to clean and repair their crafts. As a result of this demonstrated, genuine care and kindness, their friends would listen to them when they told of the benefits they had discovered from their life line. They were happy to be helped when shown how to oil the hinges of their hatches and to gradually pry them open so they could look up. The glorious new view enthralled them at once. They were overcome with gratitude to the One who had mounted the air-sea rescue operation at such personal cost. It brought to my mind a verse on a Christmas card sent by a friend: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, thought he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." These good people were obviously the same ones who spent time every day reading their Book of instructions and using their telephone connection with their pilot.

On the other hand, I noted that those who merely shouted to their friends from a distance to open their hatches were heard less than those who first showed love and kindness. And I saw others not connected to life lines being equally kind to their neighbors, but their help was trivial compared with the incomparable benefits of peace and inward sustenance--not to mention being granted security for their future life.

The course of those with life lines was obviously controlled. Many places of entertainment and amusement were located along the riverbanks. Voyagers could pull up to taste the delights offered and to visit many beauty spots. Much seductive propaganda persuaded people to buy the wares and taste the delights in these attractive establishments. Attachment to a life line seemed to prohibit travelers from frequenting some of these establishments while allowing them freedom to enjoy others. As they steered their boats into forbidden waters, their lines would become taut. Although they retained their harnesses, the telephone wires would be pulled out of their attachments, so that all communication with the overhead pilot was lost, leaving them to their own devices in highly dangerous situations. Those who had pitted their wills against the advice and wisdom of their helicopter pilots lost not only their joy but their confidence in their ultimate safety. All they received in exchange was the fulfillment of some temporary desire.

In contrast, those sensitive and obedient to the instructions spent much of their time and means trying to help others. The surprising thing was that the more they gave, the more they got, so that their satisfaction, joy, peace and fulfillment increased rather than diminished.

I noticed the faces of some of those securely fastened to their life lines as they drew near the waterfall; they expressed joyfull and confident anticipation rather than fear. Their attitude reflected the feelings of Saint Paul as he faced his end and wrote: "We are confident. . .and would rather leave our home in the body and go to live with the Lord. This passage brings to my mind the testimonies of faithful Christian men and women awaiting death in Nazi prisons during the war. These were written in letters to wives and parents, almost immediately before expected exection. Fortunately they have been preserved in that moving book, Dying We Live. And are we not all dying? This thought need not be depressing. We remember Christ's words: "He that believeth in me though he die yet shall he live and he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
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Title Annotation:redemption as seen through a dream
Author:Burkitt, Denis
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1985
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