It just so happened that as my family was preparing to leave California, I was reading aloud to the kids, Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey. This book was an assigned reading for our homeschool unit on Early American History. (We use Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool and I highly recommend it, especially in the midst of a move! https://allinonehomeschool.com )
Pilgrim Stories is a living history book, meaning that it pulls you into the story and makes you feel like you are right there with them. It’s about a group of persecuted Christians living in early 17th century England who first fled to Holland and then to America in search of freedom. As I was reading, I was struck with just how relatable their story was for me today:
It made them very sad to leave England. They loved their country. They loved their green fields and pleasant village and the homes where they had once been so happy. “We are Pilgrims now,” they said, “and we will wander on until we find a home where we can be free and happy.”Pilgrim Stories, chapter 4: For Conscience Sake
You may hear that the voyage from a blue to red state is a search “for freedom” and wonder: free from what exactly? I wonder if the Pilgrims were faced with similar questions by the onlookers. In their day, the King of England was telling them exactly how to conduct worship, and one might say, what’s the big deal? You can still worship, you just have to do it this way. For us, it might be a many number of things: mandatory masks and vaccines, social distancing (more on the ridiculousness of social distancing can be found here: People Only Pretend to Practice Social Distancing), high taxes, business regulations, or high cost of living. But the truth is those things are all just symptoms of something much bigger. When the government can pass laws without our votes and tell churches they must worship certain ways or close their doors altogether, we’ve lost the ability to live as truly free individuals. Tyranny has taken hold of society.
Sadly, our government has been abusing its power for some time just as the founding fathers of our country warned. James Madison said: “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Abusive tyrants have snuck and cheated their way into office, and many have stayed for decades (much to George Washington’s dismay who voluntarily stepped down after two terms of presidency before it was law.) Any glance at history will tell you that tyrants love war and emergencies because that’s when people will happily give up their rights for a sense of safety from the perceived threat.
What can we learn from the Pilgrims who faced similar tyrants? For starters, it’s humbling to think about how much suffering they endured just to get to America. The Mayflower voyage was no sight-seeing road trip with endless snacks, movies, cell phones, drive-thrus and potty breaks. Neither was it a one-day plane trip with drink bearing flight attendants whooshing you along 500 miles every hour. No, the one hundred passengers on the Mayflower, while traveling a whopping speed of 2 miles per hour, were crammed, sea-sick, hungry and miserable. Most of them resided in the gun deck of the ship which was about 1,250 square feet with a 5-foot ceiling, and many had to leave family members behind. One woman even gave birth in those conditions!
After 2 months at sea, the sight of land was surely celebrated but their troubles were far from over. Because they had to build everything themselves on the unsettled land, half of them died the first winter due to disease and poor living conditions. When I arrived in Idaho, all I had to do was sign paperwork! (The Pilgrims wrote their own! See the Mayflower Compact.) And, I was subsequently handed the keys to a newly constructed 3,200 square foot home complete with heating, electricity, running water, and WiFi. So, in some ways I relate to the Pilgrim’s journey, but in many ways I do not!
Despite their many hardships, the Pilgrims trusted God and worked heartily together to build up a society that would benefit their children for generations. They were loyal to God and family first, not to the tyrannical state. There will always be cowards and nay-sayers, but I believe they had very good reasons to leave England just as we have good reasons to leave blue states. And just as they missed their families, friends and green fields, we miss much of what we left behind as well. But the future is bright, and we look ahead knowing God is with us at every turn.
Not everyone is called to a literal pilgrim voyage. Bravery can take many forms. It may be the courage needed to step out of your comfort and move far away from everything you’ve ever known for the good of your family (here’s a post for inspiration). Or, it may be in the strength to stay and fight tyranny right where you are, putting on the full armor of God and helping to spread the gospel in dark places. Just remember even if you do find yourself a little slice of heaven on earth and you are a Christian, you will always be a pilgrim until you are called home by your Father or Christ returns.
I am a pilgrim in the world but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.Charles Spurgeon