What do Don Quixote and the prophets have in common?
Four hundred years ago, Miguel de Cervantes published his masterpiece Don Quixote, now known as the crown jewel of Spanish literature. Only the Bible and a few political manifestos have sold more copies among the Spanish.
Now, fast forward to 1965 when Don Quixote was introduced to the Broadway stage in Man of La Mancha. For nine years, the play showcased to standing-room-only audiences, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and debuting a song that soon became a classic.
To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong, to love pure and chaste from afar,
To try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star.
The storyline centers on Don Quixote, a man who lived a life foreign to others, eccentric at best. Because he lived so differently, he was completely out of sync with society. Opinions were divided on his mental state, but most thought he’d gone mad.
Woven throughout the play is “The Impossible Dream,” sung first to a street-hardened peasant girl named Aldonza, who routinely sold her services to despicable reprobates. In the process, she lost all self-worth, but Don Quixote saw her differently. To him, she was a beautiful maiden to whom he vowed his eternal loyalty. He called her Lady Dulcinea, a 17th century word meaning “an elegant sweetness.”
Due to her jaded past, she quickly lumped Quixote with every other man—rude and abusive. So, when he asked for a token to carry into battle, she mockingly tossed him a dishrag. To Quixote, though, it was a fine silken scarf.
In time, the calloused girl began to recognize the strange but alluring difference between his world and her own. In curious desperation, she asked, “Why are you the way you are? How is it that you’re unlike all other men? What possesses you to be like this?”
This is my quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause.
Don Quixote is classic literature and nothing more. It never was intended to pit faith against unbelief or to contrast the justified with the condemned. Yet the similarity is unmistakable.
True Christian living never will be in sync with the world; it always will appear eccentric. For now, worldliness reigns. Yet in every age, there’s a remnant that follows the glorious quest of knowing and obeying God. No one knows that better than those who’ve been chosen to proclaim His Word.
Elijah knew it. Without introduction or precedent, he burst onto the scene to rebuke the nation’s godless leaders and reawaken the people of God.
Jeremiah knew it. No prophet felt greater isolation or persecution. Although each message was unpopular and unwelcome, he preached with passion and without fear.
Isaiah knew it. As Jerusalem turned a deaf ear to him, he responded by training a new generation of preachers to take his place.
Zechariah knew it. His message of hope was in stark contrast to his hopeless generation. Through it, he helped reform Jerusalem’s home life, politics and worship.
John the Baptist knew it. His burning zeal, humility and self-denial made him destination preaching for a desperate generation.
The same can be said of Bible teachers today as we fight the good fight, as we finish the race, as we keep the faith.
The world will be better for this—that one man, scorned and covered with scars, still strove with His last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable star.