I finished The Pilgrim’s Progress last night. While it was tough going, I met a few characters that I admire, and wanted to tell you a little bit about one of them today.

His name is Stand-fast. He’s almost a reward for the reader who sticks with the story as he only appears in the final pages. Stand-fast has withstood many fears, temptations and trials before the group of pilgrims meet him. He sees the downfall of some pilgrims as he passes them and has to resist the lure of Madame Bubble. And yet, by the end, he is still known as Stand-fast. It made me think, how can we be like that?

Right now, the waves of pandemic seem to be constantly breaking nearer to us. The pull out is harder to withstand. We hear of so many, too many who have been dragged down beneath the waves. The people tasked with holding them up are getting weaker too. We need to find ways to dig our feet in, widen our stance and stand fast. I’m wondering how…

Thinking about my own survival strategies, one quality (that can sometimes teeter over into a negative thing) is doggedness. When I’m looking ahead to the distance I still have to walk, that tight-lipped refusal to give up helps me to keep going. If you’re angry about the status quo, use that anger to fuel your commitment to do your bit. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to stay home or wear a mask after all.

Another thing that helps is to think about who you are staying strong for. I always think of myself as unassertive but when it comes to my children or someone in greater need than me, strength rises up.

Sometimes, we need balustrades beside us to keep us upright. When we meet Stand-fast he is not standing fast at all. He is at his last ebb with his hands outstretched. I know this stance very well but am often reluctant to show it. Stand- fast is surprised and embarrassed that the others noticed him being like that. I wonder do we fail to see the outstretched hands of people around us either because they are too frightened to show us how they really feel, or our eyes are too firmly fixed on ourselves?

Sometimes we can stand fast when we’re sitting down. (Contradictory I know). When I’m on a chair I’m able to reach out to others, write encouragement and also store up standing energy for later. There is no shame in taking a break from standing, fulfilling our duties or fighting our battles. It brings us to the same level as the falling, struggling, weaker ones beside us.

When we first see Stand-fast he is on his knees with his face raised heavenwards. You see? The best heroes know that there’s something, Someone that they need, to keep on standing fast. As the character says, “He has held me, and hath kept me from my sins; yea, my steps hath He strengthened in His way.”

What keeps you upright these stormy days? Is it a steel thread of determination? People standing alongside you? Or a strength that goes beyond all of that?

And who will you help up to their feet today?

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