Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Valley of Loss

I wanted to share some more from my reading in Hind's Feet On High Places; as I said in an earlier post this story is an allegory similar to Pilgrim's Progress, about a young woman making a journey to the High Places. I can relate so much to the trials in this story and hope that maybe they will be a help to others as well.

" day on turning a corner, they found themselves looking down into a deep valley. To their surprise their path actually plunged straight down the mountainside towards it, actually as it had in the beginning of the journey....all three halted and looked at one another, then down into the valley, and across to the other side. There the ascent was as steep and even higher than the precipe that had just climbed, and they saw that to go down, and then up again would not only require an immense amount of strength and effort, but also would take a very long time.

Much-Afraid stood and stared and at that moment experienced the sharpest and keenest test she had yet encountered on the journey. Was she to be turned aside once again, but in an even more terrible way than ever before? Indeed if only the path were to ascend they could not doubt that they would soon be approaching the High Places...

Now instead of that the path was leading down into a valley as low as the Valley of Humiliation itself. All the height which they had gained after their long and toilsome journey must now be lost and they would have to begin all over again, just as though they had never made a start so long ago and endured so many difficulties and tests.

As she looked down into the depths of the valley, the heart of Much-Afraid went numb. For the first time on the journey she asked herself if her relatives had been right, and she had not ought to have attempted to follow the Shepherd. How could one follow a person who asked so much, who required such impossible things, who took away everything? If she went down there, as far as getting to the High Places was concerned she must lose everything she had gained on the journey so far. She would be no nearer receiving the promise than when she had started out from the Valley of Humiliation.

For one black awful moment Much-Afraid actually considered the possibility of following the Shepherd no longer, of turning back....She had been following this path with the two companions (Sorrow and Suffering) as guides simply because it was the Shepherd's choice for her. It was not the way which she naturally wanted to go....Her sorrow and suffering could be ended at once, and she could plan her life in the way which she liked best, without the Shepherd.

During that awful moment or two it actually seemed that she was looking into an abyss of horror, into an existence in which there was no Shepherd to follow, or to trust, or to love - no Shepherd at all, nothing but her own horrible self. Ever after it seemed that she had looked straight down into hell. At then end of that moment Much-Afraid cried.

"Shepherd," she cried. "Shepherd! help me! Where are you? Don't leave me!" Next instant she was clinging to him, trembling from head to foot, and sobbing, "You may do anything - ask anything, only don't let me turn back.Oh my Lord, don't let me leave you. Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to return from following after thee."

He lifter her up, supported her, and wiped her tears away, then said, "There is no question of your turning back, Much-Afraid. No one, not even your own shrinking heart, can pluck you out of my hand. Don't you remember what I told you before? 'This delay is not unto death, but for the glory of God.' You haven't forgotten already the lesson you have been learning have you?"

"It is no less true now that 'what I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.' 'My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.' It is perfectly safe for you to go on in this way even though it looks so wrong, and now I give you another promise: 'Thine ears shall a 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." Then he went on, "Will you bear this too, Much-Afraid?...Will you still trust and love me?"

She was still clinging to him and now repeated with all her heart the words of another woman tested long ago, "Entreat me not to leave thee, nor return from following after thee: for whither thou goest I will go; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." She paused and faltered a moment, then went on in a whisper, "And where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also if anything but death part thee and me."

Considering how steep it was the descent into the valley seemed surprisingly easy, but perhaps that was because Much-Afraid desired with her whole will to make it in away that pleased the Shepherd. The awful glimpse down into an abyss of an existence without him had so appalled her heart that she felt she could never be quite the same again. However it had opened her eyes to the fact that right down to the depths of her own heart she had but one passionate desire, not for the things which the Shepherd had promised, but for the Shepherd himself. All she wanted was to be allowed to follow him forever."
~ Hannah Hurnard

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"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:6,8-1