This week I’ve been reading a book called ‘Hinds’ feet on High Places‘, by Hannah Hurnard. It’s written as an allegory of faith: ‘Much-Afraid’ goes on a journey to escape her relatives, the Fearings, who live in The Valley of Humiliation, by following the Shepherd to the Heights of Love. It’s beautifully written and it brings alive something of the nature of living by faith in a very personally recognisable way.
Like Much-Afraid, I too have worn the weed of impatience in my heart instead of the flower of Acceptance-with-Joy. I know the temptation of listening to fears and enemies, whether that be Pride, Resentment, or Self-Pity. And I recognise the feelings of weariness, despair, and mistrust that she grapples with at different points of the journey.
But, like her too, I know the kindliness of the ‘Shepherd’ – a Lord of tender compassion to those who are afraid. When we look upon the Lord with shame in our eyes, we meet no answering reproach in His. When we feel loss or at a loss, He makes His presence known to us and reminds us that we are never truly lost.
The book brings out the richness of the gospel, the magnificence of God’s character and the paradoxical tension of these things being both so evident and knowable, and yet being beyond full comprehension. The same thing is true of what I’ve been reading in Hebrews this past week, and it has been such an encouragement. I’m increasingly finding out why it is that scripture is referred to as the Living Word: it is life-giving in a way no other words are.
Hebrews 8:11 quotes a prophecy from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah about the new covenant, the grace of God to all:
11 No longer will they teach their neighbour,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
I love this verse because it illustrates the beauty, the wonder and inclusiveness of God’s Kingdom. Christ lived on Earth that all may know who God is, and have the choice of knowing Him as a close friend, knowing him in the truest sense.
If the gospel is the Truth, and I believe that it is, then, however we act, we are carrying out God’s purpose; since the gospel tells us that the victory over evil is certain. We can choose to either serve God instrumentally, or to serve God personally.The grace offered to us in Christ is an invitation to be part of God’s purpose ourselves, to serve God personally as sons and daughters. It’s an invitation to ‘be in on the secret’ of all that God is doing, to lead a life which knows the fun of hearing from God, and which takes us to places that we wouldn’t (and wouldn’t have been able to) take ourselves.
So it is that, 50 years down the line (if I do live that long), I want the tale of Much-Afraid to look like it was, all along, an allegory of my own life. I want to be taken to places that I wouldn’t take myself. I want to decide to follow Jesus every day, so that when I reach each and every particular day, the decision to follow is easier. I want to see every day as a day where I will encounter God afresh. As happened earlier today, when I do feel loss, or at a loss, and when I cannot understand – I want always to be satisfied to ask and be informed of God’s will, and be obedient to it even when I am not able to comprehend why it is that it is God’s will.
Hebrews 3:3 has a great turn of phrase, which I’ve been thinking about this week whilst I’ve been processing all these different thoughts that I’ve just written down.
3 …encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,”…
As long as it is called ‘Today’.
As long as it is called ‘Today’, I wish to seek the company of the Shepherd, the Lord of tender compassion to those who are afraid.
As long as it is called ‘Today’, may I live by faith.