I recently read about an influencer of this past year. He was one of the biggest net earners from his YouTube channel. Ryan is only six years old, but he has ten million subscribers, and he brought in eleven million dollars last year from unboxing toys. The revenue is raised through ads and sponsored content. It’s a vision of the future. It’s where even very young people go for amusement and practical information.
I only heard about “influencers” last year. It’s a term my own grown up children apprised me of. It’s what all kids now aspire to, having a YouTube channel of their own with lots of subscribers. It’s a wonderful thing to be an influencer, very glamourous and potentially lucrative. Those who get in early can collect payment and proceed straight to GO. It’s early arrival on the gravy train of life.
Still, I have an old-school influencer by me, and while it does not bring me any money, I still count it a personal treasure, not to be dismissed. It is not digital, it is very much physical and I like it that way.
It’s my oldest book. I don’t know how, but through all the moving around and turmoil of a lifetime, it is somehow still here. It’s a diminutive copy of John Bunyan’s spiritual allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. The price on the cover says 45 cents. I won it in a contest, for memorizing scripture. The portion I had to memorize was Ephesians chapter six, an appropriate segway from Pilgrim’s Progress, because it talks about spiritual battle and the weapons best at our disposal. Somehow it has come back to me at pivotal times in my life, like a voice in the night, telling me to go right or left. This is the way. Walk in it.
I have not always walked in it, but I have been glad the times I did, and sorry the times I did not. It makes me understand though, how important the lessons are that we learn very young. There are things that we must be equipped with in life, and knowing how to think and where to go for guidance is a good life skill. Otherwise you can find yourself drinking from some very dark wells, ones which offer no ultimate hope.
Memorization is also out of style it seems. When I was helping my kids with “new math” it made me scratch my head because there were so many avenues to tackle a problem that it was confusing. Me, I think back to those charts we had to memorize, like the times tables. Two times two is four, four times four is eight, eight times eight…. Rote learning certainly works. No critical thinking to find alternate solutions, just the right one. In that way it does not offer up any confusion as to the importance of the right answer.
It also makes me think about all those many people thrown in jail who had to eke out some kind of hope in the darkness. Many of them memorized scripture, and it came to mind where it was necessary. There is a whole genre of jailhouse literature, all the way down from the Apostle Paul, to John Bunyan, and others who were imprisoned for their faith.
John Bunyan was an interesting character because his literary masterpiece came to him in a lucid dream, and he transcribed it in the jail cell. It went on to become the next best selling book in the English language, surpassed only by the Bible itself. It is because the story speaks so much truth. It’s a play book for the everyman. John Bunyan was a Puritan by persuasion, and he committed vast portions of scripture to memory, which is evident when you read Pilgrim’s Progress. He lived a generation after the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, became widely available to the masses. He was imprisoned in 1670 and and again in 1677 after the restoration of Charles II when religious freedoms were revoked as a means of keeping matters of nominal faith officially channelled through the Church of England. No private professing or deviations allowed.
I have a pretty good personal library. There are sections on world history, politics, economics, literature, and social issues. Despite the information I have gleaned that was valuable, I still like those books best which talked to the heart, not the head. They did me the favour of making me think of life, in a different way. They influenced me. If I were to be sent to a desert island with one book I would like to have with me and read again, it likely would be this book, battered and worn as it is. It has sentimental value if only for the fact that it has stuck with me in and out of hard times, speaking truth plainly as all good books should.
Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of a man’s spiritual journey from cradle to grave, from first discernment of things worthy of contemplation beyond mere appearances, all the way through the practical battles life brings. Like Ephesians chapter six of the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress lives the ins and outs of Christian’s mistakes, good and bad friendships, and where help best comes from in times of trouble. It is a book of hope, whereby Christian ultimately reaches the Celestial City and is welcomed by his saviour and master, the one he heard about, read about, and dreamed of seeing face to face.
I have no doubt that John Bunyan received that welcome personally. His wonderful book is as true today as it was when first written. I have seen some translations into modern English, but like Shakespeare, John Bunyan’s story is best left alone in its original form.
In the days when people are binge watching Netflix, when few happy stories appear in the daily news feed, when book reading has oft been reduced to what can be downloaded onto a tablet, I wonder how many people have derived happiness, and found hope, in a book. I have.
A history of jailhouse literature shows us that the pen is truly mightier than the sword. It may also explain why rulers throughout history have so often feared and banned reading of the Bible. The strange and wonderful truths of Scripture permeate your life when you read them, mediate on them, and make them part of your life and decision making progress. If you have ever been in despair, and prayed the Psalms, you will understand that many have trod in your own footsteps and found hope for the troubled soul. It says in Hebrews 4:12. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In the maelstrom of life, it is a lamp to your feet, and a light for your path. “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.
Take note, kids. My influencer is portable, requires no upgrades, no Wifi, no plug-in and can be downloaded as effectively in part as in whole. Committed to memory, it is a powerful tool in any life arsenal. YouTube channels will come and go with the latest fad, but I wonder how many of them will last five hundred years? It is possible that my influencer has reached further parts of the globe, and has been profitiable to more who read it. Sometimes there really is no school quite like old school.
Thank you, little book for your faithful message, and the path you have pointed me to, over the course of much time. I am happy to still find you on the shelf, a bit battered and used just like me but still kicking. Of all the available distractions in life, I am happy to have been influenced by something as ordinary and enduring as a book. Let’s do this journey together like old friends should. It’s what influencers do best.