This pastoral passage was first written for LRBC on December 6 2015.
Towards the end of The Pilgrim’s Progress, the two travellers come into a region where the air seemed to induce sleep. This feature of the story highlights a subtle but serious danger of the Christian life: spiritual sleepiness. There is not autopilot for our faith, yet it is so, so easy for us to act as though there is: coasting easily with everything ticking along as it always does. Being asleep in our faith is dangerous – it makes us unaware of things that are taking us off the path, and inactive in the exercise of faith (cf. 1Thess. 5:6; Mark 13:32-37; Romans 13:11).
This ‘enchanted ground’ really represents the good times in life, when everything is going well and the struggles of earlier days in the faith and in life seem to be over. Just as we only sleep when we are comfortable, once faith in Christ becomes something we’ve bedded down into, we are likely to put our feet up in our faith. That’s when we stop growing towards maturity and stop travelling toward the end-goal of heaven. In the second part of his story Bunyan calls this place “the last base of the enemy to travelling pilgrims”, perhaps because by then we’ve proved ourselves able to see off all other challenges to our journey
How well will you resist the desire to sleep in the easier years of your life? Fighting sleep is one of the hardest things to do, but the two pilgrims came up with a strategy that got them through the enchanted ground: they engaged in ‘lively conversation’. They recalled where the Lord first began with them as one pilgrim recounted how he came to believe in Christ. This shows us some of the true value of Christian fellowship – the conversations in which we share how we began, how we have continued, and how we hope to end our journey through the cosy wilderness that is this world.