This Way To The High Places
This post was originally published in 2010 on the one-year anniversary of my husband’s death.
It is “the week.” The week to get through. The week to face. The week to endure.
It is the one year anniversary of Roger’s death. His suicide.
And I wish this week could be skipped. I wish this week, and specifically the coming weekend, would just disappear. I wish there was a magical place to hide away until next Monday.
But alas, there is no such place. There is no such escape. There is certainly no “easy” button.
Her name was Much-Afraid
So I sit here contemplating whether to read one of my favorite books again, Hinds Feet on High Places. It takes its name from Habakkuk 3:19 (KJ), “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.”
The story is a beautiful allegory of God’s ability to help one overcome life’s difficulties. I first read this classic about 18 years ago and it touched my heart and life more than any book I had read to that point.
The protagonist is a young woman named Much-Afraid (they called her “Poor Little Much-Afraid”) who lived in the Valley of Humiliation with her Fearing relatives—Craven Fear, Pride, Selfishness and others. To make matters worse, Much-Afraid walked with a disfiguring limp, which she tried terribly to hide from others. But oh how she wanted to leave the dark valley and all her Fearing relatives. In fact, many a day as the Chief Shepherd passed by, she could hear him calling her name, entreating her to come along and climb to the high places with him where “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18).
However, as her name implied, she was afraid to leave behind what she knew for a journey she wasn’t quite sure she was ready to make, or that she was even capable of making. She feared her weaknesses would overcome any strengths she possessed for such a journey. But she did love the Chief Shepherd very much, and she knew there was joy and freedom and wholeness in the high places with Him. And she wanted more than anything to go leaping and bounding across the mountaintops with the Shepherd, whole and healed and free.
So finally one day, the misery of staying outweighed the fear of going and
she chose to surrender everything and brave the journey to the high places. Of course, her Fearing relatives put up quite a fuss and tried to keep her bound in the valley with them. But the Shepherd was her champion, and they were no match for Him.
Her Traveling companions
Now having made such a momentous decision, she was pleased when the Shepherd told her He would provide two companions to help her make the journey, and that without them, it would be almost impossible to make such a journey. At first she was glad to hear she would not be traveling alone, but when she met them, she was sure the Shepherd had made a grave mistake.
Surely He did not intend for her to make the journey with those two. Why, she did not want them as companions, nor even as acquaintances. She was was quite sure they would slow her down, possibly even crippling her more than she already was, making it all but impossible for her to join the Shepherd in the high places.
However, loving the Shepherd as she did, she also trusted Him. And so on the day her journey was to begin, she reluctantly held out her hands to the two silent companions provided—one hand to Sorrow, and the other to Suffering.
And at the end of Much-Afraid’s miraculous journey (and oh, what a journey it was), and after discovering that the high places with the Shepherd were even more than she could have ever hoped or imagined, she came to realize how much those companions had made her very ascent possible. And that she really might have gotten quite lost on her way without them to provide guidance.
Me and Much-Afraid
This week, I have much in common with the Much-Afraid of the beginning of the story. On this one year anniversary of Roger’s death, I miss him. So terribly much. Everything about him. His strength and his kindness, his gentleness and intelligence, his wisdom and his love. For my boys, I miss his solid presence, his guidance, his teaching, his encouragement, and his strong and unconditional love and support for them.
And today, I don’t want to go the high places. In fact, today I am quite willing to settle for living in the valley. For taking up residence with my own “Fearing family.” Today, the climb seems too rugged and too steep and too high and too hard and too impossible. And I don’t think I have the strength to take the hands of those two silent companions and allow them to help me on my way.
And yet…when the ranting and raving and cacophony of “Fearing family” voices cease, and I am simply silent and accepting in my pain, I hear the voice of the Shepherd. He is calling my name. Calling me to come away with Him. Calling me to the high places where my weaknesses are turned into strengths and my fears into faith.
And the choice is mine. To go or stay. To believe, or not, that “The Lord and King gives me strength. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He helps me walk on the highest places.” (Hab. 3:19 NIRV)
To stay or go
Maybe one day I too will have the courage to choose the journey to the high places with the Shepherd. Maybe I will bravely climb the mountain holding tightly to the hands of the companions provided to me. And maybe, just maybe, when I get to the top, the Shepherd and I will laugh and sing and dance and rejoice as we go leaping and bounding over the mountaintops.
Maybe. One day.