John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress presents an allegory of the spiritual journey in the form of a dream in which a man named Christian leaves his home in the City of Destruction and undertakes a journey to the Celestial City.
Christian meets many people on the hazard-ridden road to which he has been pointed by Evangelist.
Each character in Bunyan’s tale represents a support or an obstacle in the form of a type of person in this life. Most of the characters are misguided but well-intended, whose company, if kept too long, will delay or completely derail Christian from arriving at the City he’s set his sights on. Their names (Hypocrisy, Mistrust, Timorous) make the pitfall they represent all too obvious, and yet, since we’ve met (and been) all these people on one occasion or other, The Pilgrim’s Progress is humorous, instructive and inspiring.
Talkative is one of the misguided. He’s not bad company; he’ll discuss pretty much anything and with good, sensible insight. The problem: Talkative is never willing to do anything: he never puts his pious talk into action. Christian’s companion Faithful warns:
He talks about prayer, of repentance, of faith and of the new birth, but he only knows how to talk about them. I have visited his family and have observed him both at home and abroad, and I know what I say is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is devoid of flavor. There is no prayer offered in his house, nor any sign of repentance for sin. Yes, even an animal serves God far better than Talkative.
“He thinks that hearing and saying alone makes a person a good Christian,” Faithful remarks a bit later. “As a result he deceives his own soul.”
When Christian tries to engage Talkative in conversation that hits on true conversion of heart resulting in the penitential aligning of what say with what we do, Talkative will have none of it.
“I can’t do anything but come to the conclusion that you are an irritable or depressed person who is not fit to carry on such a conversation,” Talkative declares after accusing Christian of judging him harshly. “So with that I say farewell.”
The road feels a little easier to Christian and Faithful once Talkative has chosen to go his own way.
I must confess that I have always loved pious talk! I’ve learned that true conversion of heart is (for most of us, at least), a slow, sanctifying process; it is a work of gradual grace, freeing us little by little as we cooperate with Christ and lean into his mercy for our failings. I am grateful for true companions (not unlike Christian’s friend Faithful) who help me see myself and lead with their example.
This post is part of a series (see A Lenten Invitation from a Babbling Brook: Focus on Speech and Silence). To receive new installments, you’re invited to Follow Sparrowfare by placing your email address in the FOLLOW box in the sidebar. Please share the posts that speak to you. In this contentious time, let’s spread the word about the importance of our words.