This is where I am these days...
Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is a beautiful allegory dramatizing the yearning of God’s children to be led to new heights of love, joy, and victory. It follows the spiritual journey of Much-Afraid through difficult places with her two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. Much-Afraid overcomes her tormenting fears as she passes through many dangers and mounts at last to the High Places. There she gains a new name and returns to her valley of service, transformed by her union with the loving Shepherd.
Hind’s Feet on High Places is a book that I started many years ago and have never finished. It’s one that I pick up every once in awhile, read a few pages or even chapters and then put aside for a bit. Not sure why other than it seems that’s how God planned it. How do I know that? It seems that every time I pick it up I can relate to where Much-Afraid is in her journey to “high places.” I think God planned it that way… in fact I am sure that He did. Since the end of April I have felt sort of “idle.” Like nothing is going on… no progress forward but not backwards either. I have a hard time dealing with idleness. It feels wrong somehow. It’s hard to explain. A couple of weeks ago I picked it up and began to read. I continue to be amazed at how He speaks to me so clearly and timely.
This is what He said to me through the words Hannah Hurnard and the experience of Much-Afraid: “Shepherd, Shepherd! Help me! Where are you? Don’t leave me! Next instant she was clinging to him and trembling from head to foot, and sobbing over and over again. ‘You may do anything, Shepherd. You may do anything—only don’t let me turn back. O my Lord, don’t let me leave you. Entreat me not to leave thee nor to return from following after thee.’ He lifter her up, supported her by his arm, and with his own hand wiped the tears from her cheeks, then said in his strong, cheery voice, ‘There is no question of your turning back, Much-Afraid. No one, not even your own shrinking heart, can pluck you out of my hand. Don’t you remember what I told you before? This delay is not unto death but for the glory of God… Will you go down this path of forgiveness into the Valley of Loss just because it is the way that I have chosen for you? Will you still trust and still love me?’ Considering how steep the descent into the Valley of Loss, it seemed surprisingly easy (not sure about that...), but perhaps that was because Much-Afraid desired with her whole body will make it in a way that would satisfy and please the Shepherd. The awful glimpse down into the abyss of an existence without him has so staggered and appalled her heart that she felt she could never be quite the same again. However, it opened her eyes to the fact that right down in the depths of her own heart she really had but one passionate desire, not for the things which the Shepherd had promised, but for himself. All she wanted was to be allowed to follow him forever.
Other desires might clamor strongly and fiercely nearer the surface of her nature, but she knew now that deep down in the core of her own being she was so shaped that nothing could fit, fill, or satisfy her heart but he himself. "Nothing else really matters," she said to herself, "only to love him and to do what he tells me. I don't know quiet why it should be so, but it is. All the time it is suffering to love him and sorrow to love, but it is lovely to love him in spite of this, and if I should cease to do so, I should cease to exist." So, as has been said, they reached the valley very quickly.
The next surprising thing was that though the valley did seem at first a little like prison after the strong bracing air of the mountains, it turned out to be a wonderfully beautiful and peaceful place, very green and with flowers covering the fields and the banks of the river which flowed quietly through it.
Strangely enough, down there in the Valley of Loss, Much-Afraid felt more rested, more peaceful, and more content than anywhere else on the journey. It seemed too, that her two companions also underwent a strange transformation. They still held her hands, but there was neither suffering nor sorrow in the touch. It was as though they walked close beside her and went hand in hand simply for friendship's sake and for the joy of being together. (I can so relate to this part of her journey)
It is true that when Much-Afraid looked at the mountains on the other side of the valley she wondered how they would ever manage to ascend them, but she found herself content to wait restfully and to wander in the valley as long as the Shepherd chose. One thing in particular comforted her; after the hardness and slipperiness of the way on the mountains, where she had stumbled and limped so painfully, she found that in those quiet green fields she could actually walk without stumbling, and could not feel her wounds and scars and stiffness at all.
All this seemed a little strange because, of course, she really was in the Valley of Loss. Also, apparently, she was farther from the High Places than ever before. She asked the Shepherd about it one day, for the loveliest part of all was that he often walked with them down there, saying with a beautiful smile that it was one of his favorite haunts.
In answer to her question, he said, 'I am glad that you are learning to appreciate the valley too, but I think it was the altar which you built at the top, Much-Afraid, which has made it so easy for you.'
This also rather puzzled her, for she said, 'But I have noticed that after the other altars which you told me to build, the way has generally seemed harder and more testing than before.'
Again he smiled, but only remarked quietly that the important thing about altars was that they made the possibilities of apparent impossibilities, and that it was nice that on this occasion it had brought her peace and not a great struggle. She noticed that he looked at her keenly and rather strangely as he spoke, and though there was a beautiful gentleness in the look, there was also something else which she had seen before, but still did not understand. She thought it held a mixture of two things, not exactly pity-- no, that was the wrong word, but a look of wonderful compassion together with unflinching determination.
When she realized that, she thought of some words which one of the Shepherd's servants had spoken down in the Valley of Humiliation before ever the Shepherd had called her to the High Places. He had said, 'Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible-- terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.'
When she remembered this, Much-Afraid thought with a little shiver in her heart, 'He will never be content until he makes me what he is determined that I ought to be,' and because she was still Much-Afraid and not yet ready to change her name, she added with a pang of fear, 'I wonder what he plans to do next, and if it will hurt very much indeed?'" I so wish I could express this as beautifully Hannah Hurnard. It so describes where I am on this journey these days...
"Love and prayers with you and yours on your journey." (6/2/09)