47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. 49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” 51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished…”
When a group of us gathered before the beginning of Lent for a writer’s workshop, Lynne and I both came up with the same remarkably brilliant brainstorming idea in reference to Hinds Feet on High Places, an allegory about a crippled girl named Much Afraid. Much Afraid was born into the Fearing Family (with cousin Craven Fear, Aunt Dismal, besides other relatives Gloomy and Spiteful). Sounds almost like a dreadful version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves! In the
story, Much Afraid is invited by the Great Shepherd to go on a journey, leaving her Fearing family and heading toward the high places. Her companions on the journey are Sorrow and Suffering, and along the way they encounter Pride, take a detour through the Desert, walk along the shores of Loneliness, wander through the forest of Tribulation, get lost in the Mist, and make way past the Valley of Loss. They finally make it through the Healing Stream and up to the High Places where each is given a new name. Much Afraid is transformed into Grace and Glory. Sorrow turns into Joy, and Suffering becomes Peace. And they all live happily ever after! The End. Or the beginning? Perhaps the journey is meant to be taken again and again.
The allegory may seem like a cheesy throwback to Pilgrim’s Progress with the all-too-relatable and over-obvious spiritual journey parallels, yet I cannot help but connect with it somehow. In my own life, I cannot deny having the same companions of Sorrow and Suffering. Not to proclaim them in a “woe is me!” pity party, but more recognition that this has been a profoundly painful season in my life. I have been Much Afraid- of what people will think, of how relationships with friends and family might change, of the unknown which lies ahead, of being judged, of getting lost in the mist or stuck in the Valley… What about you? How have you been Much Afraid?
And where do you see glimpses of Grace and Glory shining through?
It brings me hope to know I have a new name, a new identity not defined by fear but by Grace. In sorrow and suffering, there is the possibility of joy and peace…. The wellness of my soul in spite of pain… And I have a Shepherd, who sees when I am straining and struggling, who joins me in the storm and says, “Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.