Pilgrim Pleasure 3 – Poetic

We have followed Pilgrim, as he gave in to the temptation for temporary indulgence on the “Please Yourself” path. We saw how that small step of selfishness changed the way her perceived and accepted the “Do Right” trail, which he had been on before.

pilgrims progress

We saw how Pilgrim became addicted to pleasing himself and eventually abandoned the right way completely. Yet, in that process, Pilgrim found that he could not enjoy the things he pursued. Pleasure became elusive and his life was spent in the vain quest of what he believed could be found.

Poetic Summary

I have described Pilgrim’s pleasure plunge in a poetic summary. This not only summarises the story, but allows you to put it up somewhere as a reminder of what this story teaches. Print it off and put it behind the toilet door, or on the fridge.

Read this series to your children and have them learn the important lessons described therein.

I pray that the Lord open your hearts to the truth and shine light into your whole existence, as you receive the reality embodied in this poetic summary.

A Poetic Warning

One day another pilgrim walking the “Do Right” trail came to the place where the “Please Yourself” path crosses and leads off to a lovely meadow. And there, nailed to a tree, hung a parchment with these pain-filled words.

Please Yourself – Pilgrim’s Folly

“Please yourself”, they told me, “and have your fill of sunshine.”
I nodded my approval and gladly took their cue.
I sampled all the goodies of sight and sound and senses,
And told myself with sureness, “This will surely do”.

My purpose, like a boulder, that weighed upon my shoulder
I left behind for playful things, without that load of care.
Intent upon my pleasure I ran from treat to treasure
And did about as many things as I was wont to dare.

But as the days unfolded, while other voices scolded,
I found a sourness turn to bad the things that ought to please.
I also found a yearning and a deadly sort of burning
That nothing I could do would now appease.

“Please yourself”, they told me, but something seemed to hold me
And keep my senses empty, to never feel their fill.
So I became distracted, obsessed and sore impacted
By burning lust undaunted and longings raging still.

“Please yourself”, they tell you, and try now to compel you
To venture down a pathway that steals away your soul.
So stop, right now and hold back, and stay upon the right track
For “Doing Right” and fearing God is what will make you whole.

Copyright 2009 CGF

Pilgrim Pleasure 2

Pilgrim had followed the “Do Right” trail and knew it was a good and wholesome way to go. But one day he decided to try out the forbidden “Please Yourself” path. His excursion seemed to do him no harm and he could not understand why that path was so warned against.

However, rising within him were stronger urges to pursue pleasure than he had ever felt before. He had lit a fire and that fire burned insistently within him. He was being drawn aside, to pursue his own lusts.

pilgrims progress

Yet Pilgrim rationalised that he could have both the forbidden pleasures and his commitment to the “Do Right” trail. The two ways were close at times and crossed each other on occasions. So surely, he thought, he could have the best of both worlds.

Then, before he ventured along the “Please Yourself” path again, he met the man who designed it. He was told that the only rule for this tantalising alternative route was to “Please Yourself”!

The New Adventure

Spying a babbling brook Pilgrim hurried to it and sampled its refreshing waters. Then, fearing his companion might catch up and discover him from the “Do Right” trail, he moved into the sweet shade of leafy trees.

From there he saw fruit trees and went to sample the fruit. Then he saw happy animals to play with, which made hearty fun.

His new adventure was wonderful; much more pleasant than anything from the “Do Right” trail. And, to top it off, he was not far off track and soon to join the trail again.

He praised his maker for the chance to enjoy such sweet delights and drink in such happiness. And he wondered why this path should be so badly spoken of.

Not that there weren’t difficulties on the path. When bees swarmed near him he had to get away. And when the path was slippery he had to find his own footing. But at least now he could please himself about how he solved each problem. He could divert off course, or push through with purpose. Whatever he felt was best he was allowed to do.

Back on the trail there was not the same liberty. He had to do things the right way, without the creativity and spontaneity the pleasure path allowed.

The Trail Again

In time the “Please Yourself” path crossed the “Do Right” trail once more. Pilgrim was relieved to be back on track again. This confirmed to him that there was no harm in taking the “Please Yourself” path.

In truth, though, he would not have stuck to the trail at that point but pressed on along the pleasure path, except that he saw people he knew.

He waited for them, hoping to slip down the path once they passed. Instead they seemed intent on talking with him. They seemed suspicious that he had done wrong and wanted to warn and exhort him.

Such talk was insulting and intolerable, yet he did not wish to offend, so he gave the appearance of listening intently. His mind, however, drifted off to things he had seen and enjoyed on the side path.

As they walked Pilgrim caught glimpses of the mountains ahead and began to resent the hard road under his feet. Restrictions and a disciplined journey now offended his senses, freshly awakened by his recent excursions.

With each step Pilgrim felt all the more resentful of doing right and all the more determined to please himself as soon as he could.

Into the Woods

Before long those on the “Do Right” trail recognised that something was wrong. They exhorted and cautioned him to get his heart right, but he resented their meddling. They could not understand what he felt, for they had never tasted the delights of the “Please Yourself” path. Their cautions, therefore, were empty and vain.

And so it was, when he next had opportunity, Pilgrim snuck onto the side path again and dashed into the woods. From there he searched out every meadow, drank from every brook and tasted every fruit.

This time, however, the delights were not so sweet. Somehow his tongue had adjusted to the tastes and would not be tantalised. The meadows seemed not so soft, nor the bird song so sweet. So he pressed on for better places, determined to truly “please” himself.

One time, stumbling near the “Do Right” trail, his old companions pleaded with him to come to his senses and get back on track again. Yet, despite how elusive were the pleasures he sought, he knew they did not exist at all on that hard trodden trail.

Chance Sighting

After many years it was reported that someone caught sight of the lost Pilgrim. His face was hard and his manner set. There was no joy in his face or light in his eyes. Yet he still chased the elusive pleasures with determination.

His heart was set against the “Do Right” trail, convinced it could never make him happy. Yet he could not see that his “Please Yourself” path had failed him. Nothing was to his liking. His senses so demanded gratification that even the most precious things could not appease them.

He had sampled every fruit and seen every place. He had splashed and played and eaten, as often as he chose. Yet breezes could not touch him and flavours seemed insipid. Sounds could not attract him or vistas ever please.

He had believed a lie, that happiness is found in its pursuit. Yet life is not about pursuing happiness or finding pleasure. To pursue them is to shut down the very mechanisms that perceive them.

Two Ways Meet

The old Sunday School song, “I Met Jesus at the Crossroads”, speaks of two paths meeting at a cross-roads. It says,
“Satan too was standing there and bid me “Come this way.
Lots and lots of pleasures I can give to you today.”

So, the truth expressed in this Pilgrim story is not new. It can be traced back to The Garden of Eden, where the devil tempted Eve with exactly that proposition. He effectively told her, “If you do what I suggest, you will have better things than you presently possess!” (see Genesis 3:1-6)

We are each challenged to live for ‘self’ or to restrain self in order to worship and obey God. When we give in to ‘self’ we put ourselves above God. That is treason! It brings God’s judgement upon us, but also brings us under the power of sin. We are then denied the joy of life and trapped into an empty pursuit of self-fulfilment.

When, on the other hand, we submit our selfish desires to God, and die to them, learning to do what is right, no matter how hard that may be, we find fulfilment, joy, peace and divine blessing which cannot be found by a self-led life.

Back on Track

If you have been seduced with the idea you can make yourself happy, stop to take stock. Has living for self brought you all the rewards it promised? Have you become slave to impulses, and have you found that life does not satisfy the way you thought it would?

Have you become addicted to things which you know are evil? Have you lost control of your life to such things as anger, lust, unhappiness, shame, fear, grief, resentment, unforgiveness, and the like?

The only viable track for anyone to follow is that of humble submission to God. The “Pilgrim’s” path is your created destiny. And it is much more wonderful than the world has made it out to be. It will offend your lusts, but it will also set you free from them. It will offend your selfish desires, but it will deliver reality which selfishness can never begin to provide.

It is time for you to get back on track. I challenge you to humble yourself before God and repent of living for ‘self’. Ask God to forgive and to heal you of your years of folly, trying to please yourself. Ask Him to cleanse you and then to lead you in the paths of righteousness. Then, let Him build eternal relationship with you and bring you to fulfilment and joy that you never thought possible.

Pilgrim Poetry

I have a poem about Pilgrim’s pursuit of pleasure. I’ll share that with you in Pilgrim Pleasure 3.

Pilgrim Pleasure 1

Follow Pilgrim in his discovery of forbidden pleasure. And just maybe you will see something of your own journey over the years. For, as we shall see, pleasure has a power of its own that Pilgrims should treat with care……

Pilgrim paused at the junction and considered what lay before him. His “Do Right” trail had thrown up many hurdles, yet he always found sufficient resolve to cross them all.

The trail stretched before him, austere and narrow, straight toward dark, thankless mountains. Foreboding echoed from every crag. It was a Pilgrim’s lot to scale such heights and grow by doing so. Pilgrim’s shoulders slumped at the thought of what awaited him ahead.

pilgrims progress

To the left, down a short path spread a lush and leafy pasture, where the sun shed mottled patches through leafy trees. The path was marked, “Please Yourself”, and pleaded to his weary senses.

The Path to Pleasure

“I was warned of such a path”, he spoke to himself. Yet he paused and longed for the relief so near.

Even though Pilgrim kept away from self-indulgence he had enjoyed life so far. Overcoming a daunting obstacle, bringing joy to others, helping his friends and doing right all brought a reward that nourished him.

But at times he just longed for the freedom to do as he pleased. And now, as he thought, the meadow was so close. “Surely I could suffer no harm to pause for a moment.” Without further word he eased his load from aching shoulders and moved tentatively toward the inviting pasture.

Falling into the soft grass brought celebration to his senses. Muscles rested as a smile came to his lips. Surely this could not be bad, since the Lord Himself commended rest.

Breezes swept sweet scents to his nostrils and birds chirped happy music to his ears.

Sleep came readily in the sweet comforts of the meadow.

Call to Return

He woke to the cries of a friend. A companion he oft walked with called him back to the trail. “You are not to go to such a place.”

“It’s fine. I suffer no harm. Come, see for yourself.”

The companion stood firm, so the pilgrim rolled in the grass to show how harmless the meadow was. “Come. See for yourself!” As the companion remained resolute the pilgrim laughed at him.

“This is great fun. And it makes me feel so good.”

“But you are not supposed to be there. Now hurry up and get back on track. Others are coming and they will see you.”

With that the pilgrim returned to the “Do Right” trail, looking longingly back to the meadow.

Temptation

The “Please Yourself” path crossed the trail many times and each time it did the pilgrim was drawn to it. His companion did not notice the various delights laid up close to the trail, and did not seem to care even when they were pointed out. But the pilgrim felt a new ache for them.

His short pause in the pasture remained with him and pulled at him in ways he could not explain. If he had been alone he would gladly have sampled more of the treats he saw along the way.

Finally he discovered a case for venturing to the “Please Yourself” path again. Since that path kept intersecting with the “Do Right” trail, there was clearly no harm in taking it as an alternative route, at least for a good part of the journey. Since he had resolved to go the right way and “Do Right” there could be no harm if he were to enjoy himself while doing so.

When his companion needed rest, pilgrim decided to press ahead, hoping to find the pleasure path while alone and free to explore it without censure.

As You Please

When pilgrim came again to the “Please Yourself” path there was a man standing at the intersection. Pilgrim was eager to see what pleasures the path afforded, but held back, unsure of this new acquaintance.

“I see you like my path”, the stranger spoke.

“Is this path yours?” Pilgrim enquired.

“Yes. And it’s a fine path too.” The stranger watched Pilgrim’s eyes.

“Do you mind if I use your path?”

“Please yourself.” They both laughed at that witty answer.

“Well, should I go to the left or the right?” “As you please.” The stranger smiled.

“Can I stay close to the “Do Right” trail?” “If you wish.”

“Can I still be a pilgrim?” “If that’s what you wish.”

“Are there no rules, then?” “Yes. That you ‘Please Yourself’. There is nothing else you need worry about.”

Please Yourself

If life could be divided into two kingdoms they would have to be the Kingdom of “Do Right” and the Kingdom of “Please Yourself”. While enjoying life is by no means a bad thing, the issue is a matter of heart intention.

When you set out to do what is right your heart operates under a moral imperative, in the fear of God, recognising that you are not here for yourself, but to fulfil the purposes for which God, your Creator, placed you here. That becomes your joy, and joy is much richer than “pleasure”.

When you set out to please yourself your heart has chosen to elevate self above God. You love pleasure more than God (2Timothy 3:4). Moral responsibility takes second place and you see every situation, challenge and relationship as something to exploit for personal benefit.

Moral responsibility leads to self-sacrifice, self-discipline, character, inner strength, resolve, authority, moral might, leadership, ability to bless others, social fabric and security, and God’s grace on lives and communities.

Selfishness leads to irresponsibility, abuse of others, indulgence, moral weakness, exploitation, vulnerability, lack of care for others, and God’s wrath upon lives and communities.

Choose Your Way

We each choose our way. We either walk the way of life, or of death. Western culture advertises the merits of “Please Yourself” as if it is the only logical choice. We are told to “Just Do It!” and “If it feels good, Do It!” We are encouraged to have our way, do our own thing, and insist on our personally crafted notion of what is best for us.

God calls us to fear God, love Him, obey Him and glorify Him. As we do that we receive blessings that are beyond anything our natural senses can deliver.

I call you to choose “Life”! Choose the way of holiness in the fear of God. So you can truly enjoy the life in your hand.

The next lesson follows Pilgrim into his adventure, exploring the pleasures his heart craves.