Perhaps one of the lesser known characters in the Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. Fearing is one that I nearly forgot about, and certainly thought very little of until I started writing Marianna. In fact, it wasn’t until very recently that I understood that he and I share something of a kinship.
Mr. Fearing had an honest heart. But, as his name suggests, he spent his life in a state of constant fear. He always seemed to be afraid of everything. He was not frozen as, as were most who came from the town of Stupidity (the same town as Marianna). He was certainly wise enough to escape before the coming destruction of that place, but he carried still with him the inhibition of fear.
I’m not speaking of healthy fear–like the kind that teaches you to respect snakes and poisonous spiders. I’m talking about the kind that paralyzes you from doing anything. Case in point:
“…I first heard reports of him while he stood hesitation at the Slough of Despond. I hear tell he waited there over a month.”
“A month!” exclaimed Christiana. “A whole month?”
“Yes. We had dozens of Pilgrim’s tell us about some whimpery wisp of a man who stood pacing to and fro at the edge of the Slough.”
Now as Great-heart began his narration, I beheld in my dream the subject of their discussion. He was indeed a frail wisp of a fellow who spent entire days pacing to and fro along the edge of the Slough. I could tell he had been there for some time by the smooth path he had worn into the sod. As he came to one end of his well-trod path, he would say (to no one in particular), “Oh, me! Oh, My! How shall I ever get over?” Then he would retrace his steps to the other end of his trail and repeat again, “How shall I ever get over? Oh, me! Oh, My!”
Now upon this particular day there came striding up, all brisk as a spring breeze and whistling a merry tune, a bright young man named Mr. Trust–the sort of fellow upon whose word you could hang your life. Upon seeing Mr. Fearing, he stopped in his tracks and heard him say for the thousand and first time, “Oh, me! Oh, My! How shall I ever get over?” This he heard not once, nor twice, but thrice. Upon the third repetition, he discerned that Mr. Fearing was one who would never cross over Despond without help. Therefore, determining that he should be that help, he planted himself at the near end of the beaten path and waited. “Oh, me! Oh, My!” said Fearing as he turned and started back. “How shall I ever get…?” Now when his downcast eyes beheld someone’s boots standing on his trail, he came to a halt and slowly raised his eyes. When their eyes met, Trust put out his hand, smiled broadly and said, “Hello there! Going over?”
“Over? Oh, over. Uh, why, I, uh…well, yes. Yes, I think I should maybe like to, someday, perhaps.”
“Well good!” exclaimed Trust. “So am I. Shall we travel together?”
“Now wait, wait, wait! Just one moment, please. Not so fast!” exclaimed Fearing, raising his hands and backing off a bit. “Who are you?”
“Trust be my name,” said he, with a cheerful smile and an out-stretched hand. “People call me Trust. And you?”
“Hmmm. Fearing, did you say?”
“Yes. I’m afraid so.”
“Hmmm. Interesting name. And what is your given name?”
“Alwaysbe. Alwaysbe Fearing. Hmmm. Can’t say I’ve ever met anyone by that name before. Although the two names do seem to flow together. Alwaysbe Fearing. Sort of has a ring to it.”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.”
“Well, shall we cross over?”
“Sure. Let’s go!”
“Of course now. What other time is there?”
“What about later?”
“Nay, chap. There is not such thing. When ‘later’ gets here it changes its name to ‘now.’ Therefore, come.”
“How about ‘tomorrow?'”
“‘Tomorrow!’ Ha! ‘Tomorrow’ has stolen more lives than ‘later’ ever dreamed of. There are millions waiting for a ‘tomorrow’ that never comes. Therefore off with us!” – the New Amplified Pilgrim’s Progress Part II, Adapted from John Bunyan’s Original Text by Jim Pappas Jr.
Now you would think that Mr. Fearing would be glad for the help and go over. But no! It goes on for another two pages before Mr. Trust finally helps him across and even carries him most of the way over. But for all his protests you would think that Mr. Fearing did not want to go over the Slough. This is, in fact, not true–he did want to cross over! His problem? He had seen many before him attempt to cross and drown. (These were, of course, those who were trying to come back.)
He had also seen many make it across. So why the fear and hesitation? Well his thought process seems to have been something like this: “If they were trying to go over and didn’t make it, what makes me think that I’m one of ‘good guys?’ That I would be able to make it all the way through. What’s to stop me turning back?”
The rest of his story seems to suggest that this was indeed his fear. Reflecting on the psychology of Mr. Fearing, Great-heart stated: “I gradually came to see that his fears were not of things external such as lions and giants, but rather of things internal such as his evil heart.”
“That sound like a good trait to me,” commented Christiana, “‘for the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things.'”
“It is a good thing, Christiana,” answered the guide. “But when once God takes away our stony heart and gives us a heart of flesh, we are to go forward in newness of life. We are to let Him that ‘hath begun a good work in us’ complete it. Mr. Fearing made the way much harder by not believing the promises of God.” – the New Amplified Pilgrim’s Progress Part II, Adapted from John Bunyan’s Original Text by Jim Pappas Jr.
That was something that I had sort of glossed over having more or less grown up on the story. But it struck me one day as I was worrying about my future. It was like an epiphany. “Do I trust God or not?” And the even bigger question. “Since He has proven Himself to me before, why still with the fear?”
Now Mr. Fearing had some trust in God, of course. Otherwise it’s doubtful he would’ve ever made it to the kingdom. And most certainly, he would’ve had more travel time “on the sunny side of the cross,” add Mr. Honest put it. So in this Mr. Fearing’s story gave me hope, that it is still possible to reach the kingdom even if I am fearful. However, Good would be much more glorified if I were to trust him completely. And to rejoice in His care and provision. Plus I’ll save myself a lot of misery. Jesus put it this way:
“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” Matthew 6:27
Now apparently in Jewish reckoning height was one’s lifespan. “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to his life?” (CJB) this does not mean that we should not plan. Jesus also said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”- Luke 14:27-30 (ESV)
So we should know, as I think Mr. Fearing did, what is involved. Nonetheless we are not without help. For all of us “Fearings” there is hope! Paul says, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
And Jesus’ own promise: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5 (ESV)
And lastly an ancient promise from the wise man: “Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP)
In the work of pilgrims progress, these were the most powerful weapon in the pilgrim’s arsenal. Even stronger than the sword! (I’ll tell you and that another time.) But right now, this is the lesson I’m praying I learn even as I work on Marianna. I think I’ve put it off long enough. Maybe you’re on this journey; you know what I’m talking about, and this like to join me in trusting and believing the promises. Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking and I sound crazy. That’s okay I party thou will come to understand later. But for those that do: let’s lean heavily on those promises in on the Word.
Some of the lessons I’ve learned I’ve injected into my characters experience, because I think this is something many of is struggle with on one level of another. My prayer is that Marianna will be both a help to me and to many others.