“Then I saw in my Dream they went very lovingly on together, and had sweet discourse of all things that had happened to them in their Pilgrimage;” – from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
Pilgrim’s Progress has served many generations of Christians as an encouraging way to think about their lives. We are each on a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. The path is filled with trials, detours, lessons, and other life-changing events. I strongly encourage every Christian bless himself with a working knowledge of this classic allegory.
Two of the most memorable events in The Pilgrim’s Progress are Christian’s lonely battle with Apollyon and the trial when he passed through Vanity Fair with his companion, Faithful. Sandwiched between these milestones is an equally important event that I believe paved the way for Christian and Faithful to stand firm in Vanity Fair. This event is a long conversation between Christian and Faithful that composes nearly 1/7 of the entire book.
Making sense of where we have been is used by God to shape our faith and our identity. Christian and Faithful recount the history of their individual journeys up until that point. They reflect on old companions who fell away on the journey. They reminisce about trials and deceptions that they only survived by God’s grace. They process the lessons of faith that can only come by viewing things in retrospect.
We often don’t think about conversations as events. After all, we are not really doing anything. But conversations, like trials and scheduled worship, have a powerful effect to shape our faith.
My experience with NextGen has told me that conversation is an integral work of the soul that is being neglected in my modern life.
When life is highly scheduled and task-oriented, there is very little time set aside for any talk with people that does not begin with an end-purpose in mind. If we already know the result of an interaction with a person before we begin it, we have essentially said that there is nothing for me to learn from this person. Pastoral tasks, tending to children, making an appointment, or catching a Zoom call tend to cut off the spontaneity that would allow us to do the important work that Christian and Faithful did as they walked down the path to the Celestial City.
When I am cut off from conversations where I don’t already know what the other person has to offer, I have found my soul to be dry and lifeless in the same way it becomes when I cut it off from the same type of interaction with God. As we look to structure our lives to feed our souls with spiritual disciplines, let us not neglect the discipline of unstructured conversation with the saints.