I've never paid much attention to Pilgrim's Progress, in any edition. I read it (or had it read to me) when I was very young, and I somehow got it into my head that the story is boring. At that age, anything written a long time ago was boring by default, but I have since come to believe that one should not ignore an old book any more than an old person. There is just so much goodness in an old book, with it's rich, hard-to-understand language. I am always more eager to read a book that looks and smells old than one with a shiny new cover. I love books, and I love anything old or that has history. Note: if you're ever in the mood to spoil me, keep an eye out for very old history books ;)
Ironically, this particular very old book is all about leaving behind the old and traveling forward. I read a few pages tonight, from the chapter that contains Christian's combat with Apollyon, and I found things I would not have noticed or understood before. First, it is pointed out that Christian has no armor on his back, so only by facing the enemy head on does he stand a chance of victory. To turn back would have been suicide. I realized that in the description of the armor of God in Ephesians, there is no mention of any protection for the back, either. It's when we turn our backs on the assignments God gives us and run away from the battle that we are in the gravest danger. Ugly though he is in the drawing, Apollyon is not the real enemy in this chapter or in the book as a whole. It's the past that threatens Christian. Apollyon first tries to entice Christian to return to his old country, and when that doesn't work, he uses a guilt-trip to keep him from moving forward. Either he would miss his old life, or he'd stumble on the things in his past that make him feel unworthy of God's love. Either way, his past is deadly.
Sometimes I wonder about my love of the past. I become more nostalgic than usual this time of year. As the New Year approaches, a small part of me longs for the way things were this time last year. I am constantly looking back over my shoulder, loving and admiring the shadow of things I once enjoyed. There is no reason for it - at least no good or healthy reason. We're told that those who trust God do not lack any good thing. When God removes a person, possession or circumstance from our lives, then, it cannot have been truly good for us. They are not bad things that I look back on and miss - I don't desire a time before God changed my heart, nor do spend a lot of time feeling guilty. Still, by refusing to let go of things past, I think I often miss out on the excitement of moving forward. I was not expecting to be reminded of that truth tonight by a 150 year old book.