Friday, June 8, 2012

Lessons from Quest for Celestia: Take My Hand

Last week I made my way through a death-infested swamp, a dragon-inhabited cave, a mob-filled city, and a danger-filled forest. I traveled with two companions—Kadin, a teenage boy determined to find the city of Celestia, and Leira, a spunky but tender teenage girl. It took me just a few days to read Quest for Celestia, written by Steven James, an award-winning author and someone I’ve been privileged to meet a couple of times. I am normally a movie person, but this book captured me.

Quest for Celestia, a novel based on John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, chronicles the journey of two “vagabonds,” or travelers, headed to the land of the ancient kings, to the city of the noble King Kiral. Evils and dangers attempt to keep Kadin and Leira from reaching the city. Just as The Pilgrim’s Progress was an allegory of a Christian’s journey through this world toward heaven, Quest for Celestia pictures some of the dangers we encounter in our journey here on earth, along with the victories we can win with our King’s help.
I want to paint for you a particular scene from the book, one that taught me how to handle fearful and tempting thoughts. Toward the beginning of their journey, Kadin and Leira had to follow the path to Celestia through a cave located deep within the heart of a mountain. In almost complete darkness, they inched their way along one side of the cave to avoid falling into a pit in the middle. They grew anxious when they saw two lights coming toward them. They hoped it wasn’t the evil baron’s men. As the lights drew closer, they saw it was a man and a woman running as fast as they could, each carrying a torch. The couple slowed down as they approached, and the women warned them, “Voices.” The couple had heard voices from the pit, and decided to turn back. Kadin and Leira tried to persuade the couple to travel with them, but they wouldn’t listen. They handed Kadin a torch. The voices and the dangers were too much for them, and they gave up on their journey.

Kadin and Leira continued walking, now with a torch to guide their steps. They traveled in silence for a long time, until they heard them—the voices. More like screams. They came from the pit, and with the light of the torch Kadin could see a curtain separating the real world from the next. Against the curtain were faces, wanting to be freed. Eerie shadows reached through the curtain, trying to grab Kadin and Leira as they passed. Then Kadin began to see things on the path that weren’t there. He wondered if he was walking in a nightmare. A single voice whispered to him fears and tormenting thoughts—thoughts of giving up and thoughts of doing terrible things. He asked the “Giver of Dreams” to take these nightmares away, and he asked Leira if he could hold her hand. She asked him why, and he replied, “I need to know what’s real.”*
When the voice of the enemy whispers fears and temptations to our minds, Jesus beckons us, “Take My hand.”  The enemy’s voice can grow so overwhelming in our minds, that we wonder what’s real and what’s not. His threats and lies can frighten us until we don’t want to take another step. His temptations can lure us off God’s path, and his discouragement can cause us to give up. We can feel like we’re caught in a nightmare. But when we take hold of Jesus’ hand, we will know what’s real. Holding onto Jesus—holding onto His word and what we know of Him—will keep us grounded in truth. Jesus is stronger than any fear or temptation that threatens to hinder our journey with God. In Jesus we find the strength to keep going and to say no to Satan’s allurements. In Jesus we find the courage to continue on the path, and journey straight into the Father’s arms, making our way Home.

If you would like to learn more about Quest for Celestia, visit Steven James’ blog

Next week I will paint for you one more scene.

*Steven James, Quest for Celestia (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2012), page 118.

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