I like to talk about movies a lot on this blog. It’s fun, people have watched them so they know what I’m talking about, and I learn from them.
But if there’s one thing that’s been even more important to my spiritual learning process than movies, it’s books.
There was one book in particular that shaped my life in a huge way, and it’s not very well known.
That book was Hannah Hurnard’s “Hinds feet on High places.” The title is taken from a verse in Habakkuk, “He maketh my feet like hind’s feet and setteth them upon mine high places.” That’s the whole premise of the story. The main character must travel to the High Places and develop hind’s feet.
The first thing to know about this book is that it is an allegory. The backdrop of the story is purely spiritual. Mountains; deserts; the ocean; the meadows; the valleys, every place people use when they are being metaphorical. And why not? It is an unabashed allegory.
In case you don’t know what an allegory is (and I didn’t till I read this) it’s a story about inward realities, but told like a regular fiction story. But all the places and people are symbolic. They have names like “Much Afraid” “Mrs. Valiant,” and of course “The Shepherd.” The most famous allegory is “The Pilgrims’ Progress.” I’ve never been able to get through that book all the way, even I have a limit for old English speech. But the book I’m talking about has very quaint and simple language. Easy to read and entertaining.
But the most important thing about it is that the main character, Much Afraid, was me. Literally, if I had been called by a name depicting my inward state, Much Afraid would have been the perfect fit. If you’ve read any of my posts about Frozen maybe you know this. Let’s just say Elsa would have identified with this book.
Much Afraid is one of the Fearing clan, and she has fearing in the blood, as we are told. And only the Shepherd can really help her. Much Afraid is also disfigured. She has a crooked mouth and crooked feet. She can only limp along painfully and she is ugly. But it is her fears that are her real trouble.
We are not told exactly what she fears except for pain and her relatives. Who bully her and plague her and try to kidnap her. She is weak, and they are all cowards. Much Afraid needs no object, she just fears period.
How well I know the feeling. Well, I can’t tell the whole story here, but after the Shepherd offers to take her to the High Places where she can be cleansed of her imperfections, Much afraid accepts, and even allow shim to plant the seed of Love in her heart. Though it hurts. Immediately she feels different.
When I read this the first time, I was not yet a Christian, though I believed in it. I have never not believed it was true. That was why the book made so much sense to me. Everyone in that book knows who the shepherd is. Some of them hate him, others love him. But they all believe, in that sense, that he is who he is. No one at any point denies that the Shepherd is real. Because everyone can see him.
That was how I grew up. There was no question of whether God was real, or whether Jesus was, but of where I stood with them.
That’s the only real question when it comes down to it.
Anyway, so I read the book and honestly, I did not understand it. Oh, I got the point about overcoming fear, but I had never felt real love, or been free from fear for longer than a few hours for most of my life. But Much Afraid has the same experience. She feels bold for a short time, and then she is ambushed by all her relatives and in the end faints dead away. To make a long story short, she is still able to go with the Shepherd, and she sets out, with his two helpers Sorrow and Suffering as her companions. They undergo many obstacles, dangers, and attacks from her enemies, and at the very end of their journey Much Afraid is asked to give up what she ahs staked her whole hope and life on, the promise she was given about having new feet and a new heart. And she asked to give up her human love that is in her heart like a weed, its roots going deep into her soul.
Much Afraid can hardly believe it, but in the end she does as she is told. After both these things are removed and burned on an altar, she faints and wakes up feeling different. Then she washes in a stream and discovers all her blemishes have been removed. Then the Shepherd calls her and she bounds up, with her new feet, and joins him.
More stuff happens, but I’ll stop there. When I first read this, I didn’t know you had to surrender your will to God. Maybe I had heard it, but I hadn’t made the connections. My fear was a terrible thing, but I still chose it over God so I could protect myself from having to do things I didn’t want to do. Fear was an excuse.
It was really to the point where I had no will at all except to resist God. I couldn’t resist fear. I was foolish, as everyone is with their besetting sin, but I didn’t know it. I wanted to be free but I didn’t want to pay the price.
God will set you free, but He demands that you give up your chains, and yourself. and give it all to Him. The reason people hate that idea is because they want control. Fear is a huge problem for all of us. I count myself fortunate that I at least knew it was my problem, many of us don’t.
I didn’t really become saved till I laid down my will to God. And I only knew to do that because I had read this book. To this day I still learn new things from it.
I know it wouldn’t mean as much to anyone else, but it would still mean something, so I recommend checking it out.
Until next time–Natasha.