Hinds’ Feet on High Places
Allegory of a very fearful handicapped girl who is enabled by the Shepherd to reach the high places in the Kingdom of Love. A much-loved classic that has helped millions to grow spiritually.
Much-Afraid had been in the service of the Chief Shepherd, whose great flocks were pastured down in the Valley of Humiliation. She lived with her friends and fellow workers Mercy and Peace in a tranquil little white cottage in the village of Much-Trembling. She loved her work and desired intensely to please the Chief Shepherd, but happy as she was in most ways, she was conscious of several things which hindered her in her work and caused her much secret distress and shame.
Here is the allegorical tale of Much-Afraid, an every-woman searching for guidance from God to lead her to a higher place.
Note: For a physical book shop here on Amazon
“Weeping May Endure for a Night”
Invitation to the High Places
This is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where “perfect love casteth out fear.”
For several years Much-Afraid had been in the service of the Chief Shepherd, whose great flocks were pastured down in the Valley of Humiliation. She lived with her friends and fellow workers Mercy and Peace in a tranquil little white cottage in the village of Much-Trembling. She loved her work and desired intensely to please the Chief Shepherd, but happy as she was in most ways, she was conscious of several things which hindered her in her work and caused her much secret distress and shame.
In the first place she was a cripple, with feet so crooked that they often caused her to limp and stumble as she went about her work. She had also the very unsightly blemish of a crooked mouth which greatly disfigured both expression and speech and was sadly conscious that these ugly blemishes must be a cause of astonishment and offense to many who knew that she was in the service of the great Shepherd.
Most earnestly she longed to be completely delivered from these shortcomings and to be made beautiful, gracious, and strong as were so many of the Shepherd’s other workers, and above all to be made like the Chief Shepherd himself. But she feared that there could be no deliverance from these two crippling disfigurements and that they must continue to mar her service always.
There was, however, another and even greater trouble in her life. She was a member of the Family of Fearings, and her relatives were scattered all over the Valley, so that she could never really escape from them. An orphan, she had been brought up in the home of her aunt, poor Mrs. Dismal Forebodings, with her two cousins Gloomy and Spiteful and their brother Craven Fear, a great bully who habitually tormented and persecuted her in a really dreadful way.
Like most of the other families who lived in the Valley of Humiliation, all the Fearings hated the Chief Shepherd and tried to boycott his servants, and naturally it was a great offense to them that one of their own family should have entered his service. Consequently they did all they could both by threats and persuasions to get her out of his employment, and one dreadful day they laid before her the family dictum that she must immediately marry her cousin Craven Fear and settle down respectably among her own people. If she refused to do this of her own free will, they threatened to use force and compel her.
Poor Much-Afraid was, of course, overwhelmed with horror at the mere idea, but her relatives always terrified her, and she had never learned to resist or ignore their threats, so she simply sat cowering before them, repeating again and again that nothing would induce her to marry Craven Fear, but she was quite unable to escape from their presence.
The unhappy interview therefore lasted a long time, and when finally they did leave her for awhile, it was already early evening. With a surge of relief, Much-Afraid remembered that the Chief Shepherd would then be leading his flocks to their accustomed watering place beside a lovely cascade and pool on the outskirts of the village. To this place she was in the habit of going very early every morning to meet him and learn his wishes and commands for the day, and again in the evenings to give her report on the day’s work. It was now time to meet him there beside the pool, and she felt sure he would help her and not permit her relatives to kidnap her and force her to leave his service for the dreadful slavery of marriage with Craven Fear.
Still shaking with fear and without pausing to wash the tears from her face, Much-Afraid shut the door of the cottage and started off for the cascade and the pool.
The quiet evening light was filling the Valley of Humiliation with a golden glow as she left the village and started to cross the fields. Beyond the river, the mountains which bounded the eastern side of the Valley like towering ramparts were already tinged with pink, and their deep gorges were filled with lovely and mysterious shadows.
Through the quiet and peace of this tranquil evening, poor, terrified Much-Afraid came to the pool where the Shepherd was waiting for her and told him of her dreadful plight.
“What shall I do?” she cried as she ended the recital. “How can I escape? They can’t really force me to marry my cousin Craven, can they? Oh!” cried she, overwhelmed again at the very thought of such a prospect, “it is dreadful enough to be Much-Afraid, but to think of having to be Mrs. Craven Fear for the rest of my life and never able to escape from the torment of it is more than I can bear.”
“Don’t be afraid,” said the Shepherd gently. “You are in my service, and if you will trust me they will not be able to force you against your will into any family alliance. But you ought never to have let your Fearing relatives into your cottage, because they are enemies of the King who has taken you into his employment.”
“I know, oh, I know,” cried Much-Afraid, “but whenever I meet any of my relatives I seem to lose all my strength and simply cannot resist them, no matter how I strive. As long as I live in the Valley I cannot escape meeting them. They are everywhere and now that they are determined to get me into their power again I shall never dare venture outside my cottage alone for fear of being kidnapped.”
As she spoke she lifted her eyes and looked across the Valley and the river to the lovely sunset-lighted peaks of the mountains, then cried out in desperate longing, “Oh, if only I could escape from this Valley of Humiliation altogether and go to the High Places, completely out of reach of all the Fearings and my other relatives!”
No sooner were these words uttered when to her complete astonishment the Shepherd answered, “I have waited a long time to hear you make that suggestion, Much-Afraid. It would indeed be best for you to leave the Valley for the High Places, and I will very willingly take you there myself. The lower slopes of those mountains on the other side of the river are the borderland of my Father’s Kingdom, the Realm of Love. No Fears of any kind are able to live there because ‘perfect love casteth out fear and everything that torments.’”
Much-Afraid stared at him in amazement. “Go to the High Places,” she exclaimed, “and live there? Oh, if only I could! For months past the longing has never left me. I think of it day and night, but it is not possible. I could never get there. I am too lame.” She looked down at her malformed feet as she spoke, and her eyes again filled with tears and despair and Self-Pity. “These mountains are so steep and dangerous. I have been told that only the hinds and the deer can move on them safely.”
“It is quite true that the way up to the High Places is both difficult and dangerous,” said the Shepherd. “It has to be, so that nothing which is an enemy of Love can make the ascent and invade the Kingdom. Nothing blemished or in any way imperfect is allowed there, and the inhabitants of the High Places do need ‘hinds’ feet.’ I have them myself,” he added with a smile, “and like a young hart or a roebuck I can go leaping on the mountains and skipping on the hills with the greatest ease and pleasure.
“But, Much-Afraid, I could make yours like hinds’ feet also, and set you upon the High Places. You could serve me then much more fully and be out of reach of all your enemies. I am delighted to hear that you have been longing to go there, for, as I said before, I have been waiting for you to make that suggestion. Then,” he added, with another smile, “you would never have to meet Craven Fear again.”
Much-Afraid stared at him in bewilderment. “Make my feet like hinds’ feet,” she repeated. “How is that possible? And what would the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Love say to the presence of a wretched little cripple with an ugly face and a twisted mouth, if nothing blemished and imperfect may dwell there?”
“It is true,” said the Shepherd, “that you would have to be changed before you could live on the High Places, but if you are willing to go with me, I promise to help you develop hinds’ feet. Up there on the mountains, as you get near the real High Places, the air is fresh and invigorating. It strengthens the whole body and there are streams with wonderful healing properties, so that those who bathe in them find all their blemishes and disfigurements washed away.