Recently, I have been reading “Hinds Feet on High Places.” It’s a story of lame little Much-Afraid’s journey of faith in the Shepherd. Shepherd has promised to take her to the High Places and on the way give her the feet of a deer. After traveling several days the path turns, taking Much-Afraid down into a desert dashing her hopes—Shepherd had promised to take her to the High Places! Exploring this book, yet again, I have found many similarities to my own journey with my Lord and Shepherd.
The Lord has been revealing to me how much of my identity I find in having control (which is, I’m afraid, quite a bit). Faithfully and gently, He has been bringing me to a spot of humble surrender, trust and reliance to Him. It’s hard because, like Much-Afraid, I feel that God is taking me down into a desert valley when He had promised that He would take me up. I cannot see how this scorching plain with a few random and awkward pyramids is taking me to the promised place. I can’t see the end of this desolate and uncomfortable path. Everything within me wants to run up the precipice despite the jagged impossibilities. My heart cries and I wonder how long I can continue to look this way.
It’s then that He takes my hand and promises that this is not contradicting His promise in the slightest way. How could someone as faithful as He go back on His word? No, it is merely a postponement to teach me what I would otherwise be ignorant of forever. Although my heart shrinks from this indefinite postponement, something within me breaks and I hear myself saying, “I will follow you, Shepherd, you have every right to choose the way that I should go no matter how backwards it seems.”
So we descend. At first I cannot believe that I am actually, of my own free will, allowing myself to be taken so far away from my greatest dream and desire–the one hope I have clung to for so many years. Suddenly I realize that we have entered the desert and I am surprise at our speed. But I should not have been; it cannot be any less when I am relying on my Savior, who knows the way so well.
Once in the desert He leads me to the looming pyramids. I follow Him inside, grateful for His strong reassuring presence. First He shows me where the wheat is prepared for making bread. Each grain is bruised and beaten. However, I find that they are not beaten forever. As I watch more closely I am surprised to find that each variety of grain is ground in different methods according to its purpose. Turning to me my Lord says, “in the same way you will not endure hardship and beatings forever, only for a time so that you can fulfill My highest purpose for your life. And, just as each grain is ground in its own way so your beatings are not random, but specific because I know the things you need to be prepared for.”
Entering another room my eyes fall upon a potter. In his hands is a lump of clay. I watch him cut it, knead it and finally shape it. But as I am transfixed on the clever transformation I notice that the, now clay vessel was molded according to the potters desires, not the clay’s whims. “Can I not do with you as this potter does to this clay?” My Lord asks placing His strong hand on my shoulder. “Am I not as skilled as this craftsmen?”
Gently leaning against His side I nod. Words cannot express my welling emotions and swirling thoughts. Besides, if I open my mouth I am likely to cry and who knows when I will be able to regain my composure.
My tour is not completed yet. Opening the door for me, my Lord leads me into a large glowing room illuminated by a furnace. Here gold is purified and dross is removed, but that is not all. As I watch, crusty rough and seemingly invaluable stones are thrust into the scorching flames. Awestruck I find that they are removed as sparkling precious gems, flashing as though they had received the fire into their souls. How my heart pounds to be like those ugly rocks, transformed by intense fire.
Interrupting my thoughts I hear His voice, “this is where I purify and prepare My rarest and most precious jewels.” And He leads me out.
Our pace is slow and thoughtful. There is nothing to break the silence between us except the wind which stirs up and occasional flurry of sand as proof of its existence. Still I cannot see a horizon or any promise that this desert detour will somehow lead me to the hoped for promise, but my heart has become peaceful and content here. I cannot endure indefinite postponement, beatings and bruising, cuttings and kneading, chiseling and fire unless there is hope for something better. Surprisingly, that is the exact mystery which my Lord has revealed to me in this desolate desert—my heart is ready to follow.
My Lord enters the tent and I linger outside. Although ready to follow my heart is still a swirl of emotions and thoughts as vast and tumultuous as a stormy sea. Walking around the tent I catch the slightest glimpse of a color. As I kneel I feel the warm sand scatter beneath me creating perfectly shaped cups for my knees. Brightly and courageously stands a single flower. I marvel at her willingness to live in such a place where there is no assurance of the next rain, yet she cheerfully stands confident that the One who planted her here will provide whatever she needs in due time.
Acceptance with Joy is her name. Sitting back on my heels I sigh and look up to the sky. Tears travel down my face and a gentle breeze hits plays with my hair. Can I not be as this flower, Acceptance with Joy? Who am I to think that my Savior, my Shepherd and my Lord does not know what He is doing. If the flower can bloom so joyfully and faithfully with no hope of rain, can I not delight in this desert while walking through it with my Shepherd? Resolving to become Acceptance with Joy, I bend forward and take in the scent of this rare flower which has given me so much hope, etching its memory in my mind.
Ducking beneath the flaps of the tent I glimpse my Lord sitting but looking as if He had been watching and waiting for me. I sit down close to Him amongst His pile blankets and pillows. Meekly I begin, placing my hand on His great big one and looking up into His face, “I will trust You my Lord. I will follow You. Lead me where You would have me go as long as You choose. I love You and trust You.”
My eyes begin to glisten as I let go of MY hopes and MY dreams. I do love and trust Him. Smiling feebly I finish, “I am Your handmaiden, Acceptance with Joy.”
Gently, He reaches out and pulls my head to lie on His shoulder. All is quiet for a time. Then in His still small voice He spoke words I will never forget, “The trust in your eyes is the most beautiful thing on earth. Beholding the trust in your eyes is more beautiful and precious to me than the loveliness of many queens.”
I am unsure of what has happened since that time which is probably due to the fact that I am still in the desert and have yet to journey out of it. But this I know: it is not nearly as desolate now as when I first entered. Although the desert valley may appear ugly and foreboding to many, it has become a treasure chest to me. I love being grown and changed by my Lord even when it hurts, because I am confident and secure in the fact that He IS faithful and will not give me more than I can handle.
P.S. Previously posted on IOMagazine