Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hinds' Feet on High Places

I made a new friend at the Respite Retreat named Lacy Smith.  As we chatted on the patio one day, she mentioned that she had enjoyed reading a book named Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurdard.  She explained that it is an allegory for the Christian life much like Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan and explained the basic storyline.  I ordered a copy, and began reading it immediately.  

Poor and weak Much-Afraid lives in a valley with the rest of the Fearing family where she often cowers in the company of her relatives.  Although she is prone to being frozen with fear, she is in the service of the Shepherd.  Her family hates this and want her to marry her cousin, Craven-Fear; instead, the Shepherd asks her to come with Him on a journey to the High Places where she can live in perfection with Him.  To do so, He must straighten her crippled legs and change her fearful nature.  She must scale large rocky precipices and dangerous routes.  When she reaches the mountains, the Shepherd tells her that she does not need to travel alone.  He will always be nearby when she calls for Him.  Not only that, but He would give her two friends.  She is relieved only until the Shepherd tells that these friends' names are Suffering and Sorrow. 

I am almost finished reading the book and have been glued to each page because I've found several key parallels to my experience.  First of all, certain messengers try to persuade her to turn back to the Valley: Pride, Self-Pity, and Bitterness, to name a few.  Pride and Self-Pity look especially handsome.  After letting them lure her away several times, Much-Afraid learns that singing songs of the Shepherd will drown out their voices.  She can also call out for Him, and He will come to her aid.  

Like her, I find it hard to battle the self-pity that seems to come right along with this time of grieving.  I battle accepting this extreme hurt as a way that God is drawing me to Himself.  When I am riding a particularly hard wave of emotion that lasts for days, it is hard to see that my heart will ever be able to continue living normally.  That's when I most need to sing.  Songs are a way to feed my soul with God's truth.

Along the way, the route sometimes takes her in the opposite direction of the mountains that are her destination.  When she ends up in a dessert and seems to be going away from where she would like to be, she grows frustrated and starts to despair.  At those moments, the Shepherd asks her to build an altar and to sacrifice her will.  After a handful of times it becomes easier and easier to sacrifice her will and to trust the Shepherd.  Eventually, she learns to embrace her friends Sorrow and Suffering and cannot imagine turning back to her old life.  She realizes one day that they care very much about her well-being.  Much-Afraid gives the Shepherd permission to do anything with her; regardless of where He leads, she joyfully exclaims that His presence is her great reward.  

I also have a hard time sacrificing my will and accepting that Mia's death is surrounded by God's tender care for my soul.  Through all the heartache, God has been my great reward.  He has taken many comforts away and has replaced them with a greater desire to have only Him.  It has been comforting to be reminded in this book that God is improving me for my journey.  He has chosen unique circumstances for my journey.  Sometimes my path seems really hard, and I'm tempted to despair.  I trust that God knows exactly what to do with me and how to give me the desire of my heart.

I found these lyrics this week and want to share them.  Although they are hard for me to really mean(because that feels like sacrificing my will on an altar), I believe they have become a prayer of mine:

"More Love to Thee, O Christ" by Elizabeth P. Prentiss

1. More love to thee, O Christ, more love to thee!
Hear thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to thee;
more love to thee, more love to thee!

2. Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
now thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee;
more love to thee, more love to thee!

3. Let sorrow do its work, come grief and pain;
sweet are thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
when they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to thee;
more love to thee, more love to thee!

4. Then shall my latest breath whisper thy praise;
this be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
this still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee;
more love to thee, more love to thee!

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