From the Valley to the High Places: A Journey and a Book
Please welcome Mary Elizabeth Brown, our guest blogger today. Mary is a musician and writer who is currently working on a novel set during the Regency period.
In a small bookshop, Mary once discovered a story that came to have deep personal meaning to her as she faced a difficult challenge:
This allegoric book, Hinds' Feet on High Places, rocked my world during my first semester at Multnomah University. I had spent my previous year of high school on home tutoring because of illness and recovery from surgery. All my hopes were put aside when the doctor told me I couldn’t attend college in the Fall Term.
Sitting at home when all your friends have left for their new college lives was depressing and lonely. It was a difficult struggle to hope in my future. Much to my delight, I finally received clearance to attend the 1973 Spring Semester at Multnomah. Although the college was only 30 miles from home, it felt wonderful to finally be off on my own.
I found this little book hidden amongst the many big textbooks in the school’s tiny bookstore. My curiosity was immediately caught by the protagonist’s name Much Afraid. I instantly related to her because she was disabled. She was afraid that she would never know real love and be stuck in the Valley of Humiliation forever.
She longed for more, but given her background and disability, she had little hope of moving beyond her discouraging Valley of Humiliation and all the relatives that made life so difficult.
The story unfolds when the Head Shepherd comes and offers Much Afraid the opportunity for love and the chance to travel to the glorious High Places. First, she would have to consent to the insertion of a seed thorn into her heart. He promised when the seed bloomed she would experience love and would receive hinds' feet. A hind is a female deer that can manage the most difficult paths on the mountain tops.
Hinds' Feet on High Places tracks her difficult journey. In her disabled state, she needs assistance, so the Shepherd sends her some very unwelcome help named Sorrow and Suffering. I could so relate to Much Afraid not wanting to touch them, yet the only way she could make progress was to grasp their hands and accept their help over the rocks and barriers in her pathway.
Much Afraid asks a hard question during her difficulties: Why does the loving Shepherd allow all these hardships?
This book brings to light the spiritual walk that we must all take, which in reality is not all roses and songs, but trials, tribulations and submission to the pain and suffering God uses to change us. If we are not changed, we can never enter the High Places. Faith in the Shepherd’s character must be challenged or we will never really get to know Him.
I found encouragement to embrace the trials that God had given me, to trust in His wisdom on the path He had chosen for me and even if it was one painful step at a time, I knew I could walk the path to the High Places with my Shepherd's help.
The glorious arrival at the High Places is not the end of the story but just the beginning of a new story for Much Afraid, who will receive a new name and a new job from the Shepherd. Our death to self is not the end but just the beginning of our forever story.
Hannah Hurnard (1905-1990) was born in England and raised by wealthy Quaker parents. In her youth, she wrestled with social phobias and stuttering. Finding no personal experience with God in her parents' church meetings, she struggled with believing in His existence.
In her search for God, she realized that she needed to submit herself first to find Him. After that act of submission, she experienced a real relationship with God and dedicated her life as a missionary to Israel. A fan of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Hannah allegorized her spiritual experiences in Hinds' Feet on High Places which was published in 1955.
She went on to write many more books on spiritual topics as well as her experiences in Israel. Towards the latter part of her life, she ventured into Universalism, New Age and Reincarnation as a part of her spiritual beliefs. This began to separate her from mainstream Evangelical beliefs leading to the unpopularity of her later writings in Christian publishing circles. Whatever direction the end of her life took, her Hinds' Feet on High Places has encouraged many on their spiritual journeys with Christ.
The author of this article, Mary Elizabeth Brown, is a graduate of Multnomah University with a major in Biblical Literature. She presently lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, disabled adult son and four mischievous cats. Her day job is teaching all levels of piano students in her busy home studio.
She is an avid reader of all kinds of books but enjoys historical fiction the most. She is pursuing her writing dream by working on her first Regency novel. She has written classroom curriculum, devotionals, articles for The Christian Journal newspaper and her blog, Hopeful Perspectives.