Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Of Laughter and Jellyfish

This is a passage from one of my all-time favorite books, "Hinds Feet on High Places", a wonderful allegory by Hannah Hurnard:

Though she felt too ashamed to do it, she did so because she was forced by her extremity. She cried out, "O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me. My fears have taken hold upon me and I am ashamed to look up."

"Why Much-Afraid." It was the Shepherd' voice close beside her. "What is the matter? Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid."
He sounded so cheery, so full of strength and moreover without a hint of reproach, that Much-Afraid felt as though a strong and exhilarating cordial had been poured into her heart and that a stream of courage and strength was flowing into her from his presence.

She sat up and looked at him and saw that he was smiling, almost laughing at her. The shame is her eyes met no answering reproach in his, and suddenly she found words echoing in her heart, which other trembling souls have spoken. "My Lord is of very tender compassion to them that are afraid".

"Much Afraid", said the Shepherd again, "tell me, what is the matter? Why were you so fearful?"

"It is the way you have chosen for me to go, " she whispered. "It looks so dreadful, Shepherd, so impossible. I turn giddy and faint whenever I look at it. The roes and the hinds can go there, but they re not limping, crippled or cowardly like me."

"But Much-Afraid, what did I promise you in the Valley of Humiliation?", asked the Shepherd with a smile.
Much-Afraid looked startled and the blood rushed into her cheeks and ebbed again, leaving them as white as before. "O Shepherd, you said you would make me feet like hinds' feet and set me upon mine High Places".

"Well", he answered cheerily, "the only way to develop hinds' feet is to go by the paths which the hinds' use---like this one."
Much-Afraid trembled and looked at him shamefacedly. "I don't think I want hinds' feet if it means I have to go on a path like that, " she said slowly and painfully. Instead of looking either disappointed or disapproving, the Shepherd actually laughed again.

"Oh, yes you do," he said cheerfully. "I know you much better than you know yourself, Much-Afraid. You want it very much, indeed and I promise you these hinds' feet. Indeed, I have brought you on purpose to the back side of the desert, where the mountains are particularly steep and where there are no paths, but the tracks of the deer and of the mountain goats for you to follow and the promise may be fulfilled. What did I say to you the last time we met?"

"You said, 'Now thou shalt see what I will do,'", she answered reproachfully and added, "But I never dreamed you would do anything like this! Lead me to an impassable precipice up which nothing can go but deer and goats, when I am no more like a deer or a goat than is a jellyfish. It's too---it's too---" She fumbled for words, then burst out laughing. "Why it's too preposterously absurd! It's crazy! Whatever will you do next?"

The Shepherd laughed too. "I love doing preposterous things," he replied. "Why, I don't know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength and fear into faith and that which has been marred into perfection. If there is one thing more than another which I should enjoy at this moment is turning a jellyfish into a mountain goat. That is my special work," he added with the light of a great joy in his face. "Transforming things---to take Much-Afraid, for instance, and transform her into---" He broke off and then went on laughingly. "Well, we shall see later on what she finds herself transformed into".

It really was an extraordinary scene. In the place where just a little while before all had been fear and despair were the Shepherd and Much-Afraid, sitting on the rocks at the foot of the precipice, laughing together as though at the greatest joke in the world.

"Come now, little jellyfish," said the Shepherd, "do you believe that I can change you into a mountain goat and get you to the top of the precipice?"

"Yes," replied Much-Afraid.

"Will you let me do it?"

"Yes," she answered, "if you want to do such a crazy and preposterous thing, why you certainly may."

"Do you think I will allow you to be put to shame on the way up?"
Much-Afraid looked at him and said something that she had never been willing to say before.

"I don't think I mind so very much if you do; only have your will and way in me, Shepherd. Nothing else matters".

This is my favorite passage from a favorite book, because I have had laughter and jellyfish moments with the Shepherd.

I know Him to have a sense of humor. I know Him to have the power to transform.
At one time, I was able to say, without hesitation, "Nothing else matters", but the Shepherd's will and way.

Currently, I am more in the place of this quote...

>>>>>Much-Afraid trembled and looked at him shamefacedly. "I don't think I want hinds' feet if it means I have to go on a path like that, " she said slowly and painfully.<<<<<

Thank you, Lord that You throw back your head and LAUGH when I say that. Thank you that there is not one *hint* of reproach in You toward me. You are amazing, steadfast and good toward me, always.

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