As Much Afraid continued to walk through the valley she had reluctantly followed, she was delighted to discover that the Chief Shepherd walked with her and her companions Sorrow and Suffering for many days. Even though she still did not know what it was like for her crooked feet to be made like hinds’ feet, she felt rested and refreshed. She reflected on how much she appreciated her companions and how often they had helped her along the way. In truth she learned (as can we), valleys can teach us much if we open our eyes to the purposes they fulfill.
Hannah Hurnard’s epic book, Hinds Feet on High Places, guides us through the lessons open to us if we look carefully at Much Afraid’s journey. The stops along the way to build altars remind her and us “that the important thing about altars was that they made possibilities of apparent impossibilities.” She was also learning more about love and what the Chief Shepherd had told her about it, “Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible – terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.”
What a powerful image of the work of transformative sanctifying grace that occurs in each of our lives after we choose God and commit to follow Him. It would be nice to think everything about us changes at that one point in time, but how we think, make choices, and let go of the things that were unlike Him is a process where grace is extended as we (with his help) become more like Him and learn to appropriate his power at work within us. Though we are changed, God wants us to leave more and more of that old nature of ours defeated from seeking to impede our journey. He wants us to know our special purpose and how we are each called to fit into his plan and fulfill it.
As Much Afraid had traveled many days in the valley now, she was surprised one day to find the Chief Shepherd led her to a rocky surface of wall leading up to the High Places. She could not imagine how they could climb the surface to the rocky faced mountains, but she discovered then as she had slowly been learning that the Chief Shepherd always made a way for the path ahead that he wanted her to go. As he did this time as well, she soon learned at the top that the High Places continued much higher than she realized and where he led her now was not the summit. Even so, she was able to look around at the magnificent view of streams, waterfalls, grassy meadows covered with wildflowers of nearly any color she had ever seen. As she walked along with Sorrow and Suffering, they came to the head of the great waterfalls they had encountered lower on the slopes and noted there appeared to be no way to move to the other side unless the Chief Shepherd could show them a way she could not see.
How often we also need to have God show us a path, a way across obstacles that we cannot see or imagine. If we will but trust and follow his lead, we grow more secure in his fierce love for us and determination to bring us to where He is.
The mist of the great waterfall made it more difficult than ever for Much Afraid to see how far it was to the towering peaks on the other side that she could barely see the tops of, but then as she was surveying the scene, the Chief Shepherd came along beside her and began to speak to her.
“When you continue your journey there may be much mist and cloud. Perhaps it may even seem here as though everything you have seen here of the High Places was just a dream, or the work of your own imagination. But you have seen reality and the mist which seems to swallow it up is the illusion.
Believe steadfastly in what you have seen. Even if the way up to the High Places appears to be obscured and you are led to doubt whether you are following the right path, remember the promise, ‘Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand or to the left.’ Always go forward along the path of obedience as far as you know it until I intervene, even if it seems to be leading you where you fear I could never mean you to go.
Remember, Much Afraid, what you have seen before the mist blotted it out. Never doubt that the High Places are there, towering up above you, and be quite sure that whatever happens I mean to bring you up there exactly as I promised.”Hannah Hurnard
“God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?“Numbers 23:19 (NIV)
How often the Chief Shepherd had spoken to Much Afraid and her companions since they left the Valley of Humiliation, but now as he had a few times before, he took Much Afraid by herself and carried her to the summit of one of the High Places and it was there before her that he was transfigured and she knew then what she had only sensed before – he was truly the King of Love and he did love her as she had hoped so long ago that he might.