I’ve found many a jewel in Hinds’ Feet on High Places. I actually had to go back a re-read it to let it sink in. I want to share some of the treasures I’ve found in my next few posts.
The book is an allegory about a spiritual journey followers of Christ can make. The protagonist (if any but Christ can be considered a protagonist), Much-Afraid, follows the call of the Shepherd to go to the High Places, where she will receive a new name and her physical and spiritual maladies will be healed. The Shepherd attends to other business at times during the journey, and he provides guides for Much-Afraid (although he will always come if she calls for his help):
“This,” said he, motioning toward the first of the silent figures, “is named Sorrow. And the other is her twin sister, Suffering.”
Poor Much-Afraid! Her cheeks blanched and she began to tremble from head to foot. She felt so like fainting that she clung to the Shepherd for support.
“I can’t go with them,” she gasped. “I can’t! I can’t! O my Lord Shepherd, why do you do this to me? How can I travel in their company? It is more than I can bear. You tell me that the mountain way itself is so steep and difficult that I cannot climb it alone. Then why, oh why, must you make Sorrow and Suffering my companions? Couldn’t you have given Joy and Peace to go with me, to strengthen me and encourage me and help me on the difficult way? I never thought you would do this to me!” And she burst into tears.
A strange look passed over the Shepard’s face as he listened to this out-burst, then looking at the veiled figures as he spoke, he answered very gently, “Joy and Peace. Are those the companions you would choose for yourself? You remember your promise, to accept the helpers that I would give, because you believed that I would choose the very best possible guides for you. Will you still trust me, Much-Afraid?”
Much-Afraid decides to trust the Shepherd, but recognizes her inability to do so without help and asks for his help. He then responds:
Go with Sorrow and Suffering, and if you cannot welcome them now, when you come to the difficult place where you cannot manage alone, put your hands in theirs confidently and they will take you exactly where I want you to go.
-Hinds’ Feet on High Places
Sorrow and Suffering seem like harsh guides, and I think it’s fair to say most of us shrink back from them. The Shepherd, however, knows exactly when we will need them. Through her journeys, Much-Afraid finds they can carry her where she cannot walk, and spur her to call on the Shepherd in her need. These fearsome-looking companions become Much-Afraid’s dear friends, and when she reaches the High Places and is transformed, they change also. Sorrow turns to Joy, and Suffering to Peace. It was only after Much-Afraid learned to walk with Sorrow and Suffering that her goal was no longer her selfish desire to be loved, or to be healed. Her desire was transformed to only long for the Shepherd and then Joy and Peace were hers as well.