Way back when I was a teenager and had time to hang posters of boy bands on my wall, and learn all the lyrics to all the songs, one of my favourite bands, Jars of Clay, released an album called Much Afraid.
It’s probably one of my favourite of theirs, although it took me years to understand all their meaningful lyrics. I think the fact that I couldn’t quite understand them as a teen actually made me like them more. Clearly listening to words that made no sense, was a mark of above average intelligence.
Anyway, at some point I discovered that the title track, ‘Much Afraid,’ had been inspired by a book, and so I begged my mother to buy it for me. Come Christmas she presented me with a paperback with a funky red cover, obscurely titled ‘Hinds’ Feet in High Places.’
The book itself was in some ways as hard to decipher as some of Jars of Clay’s lyrics. I really can’t remember a huge amount about the story (I think I struggled to get through it), but I do recall everyone was named for their most defining characteristic. There was Sorrow and Suffering, The Good Shepherd, Craven Fear, and, of course the main character Much Afraid. Part of the story takes place in the Valley of Humiliation, and that’s about all I can tell you. (And all Wikipedia says as well.)
Perhaps the thing that stuck most in my mind about this book was the title. Hinds’ Feet in High Places. It took me a little while to realise it was a reference to an Old Testament bible verse, written in ye old King James. The verse it’s borrowed from, basically talking about how mountain goats are very good at climbing high places.
Except that it actually is.
I was thinking about it the other day, for whatever reason, and it struck me that the very cool thing about mountain goats is that they never roll their ankles. At least I don’t think so. (If they do, I don’t want to know.)
As someone who is prone to rolling their ankles on a semi-regular basis, I find this a rather admirable quality. I’m the sort of person who can walk on even ground and injure themselves. Unlike those mountain goats whose feet are sure even when the ground gives way.
The last two months have seen the ground give way more than I would like. It’s been hard on a level I’ve never understood before. It hasn’t just been Dad’s passing, although that in itself is enough. It’s been Dad’s passing on top of insane busyness that hasn’t let up. It’s been children injuring themselves and needing dentists and chiropractors as well as ordinary doctors. It’s been an ear operation that we’ve waited for for seven years, coming at a time when there seemed little in me to give. It’s been seeing my daughter have the same pain faces as my dad.
It’s been hard assignments for a unit I don’t really like for a lecturer whose tough at the best of times. It’s been surviving a semester that felt impossible, to hear the very next day your course has been cancelled and it’s almost all for nothing.
It’s my babies growing up, and me having to grow up and plan how to not be a stay at home mum for the first time in twelve and a half years, and wonder what exactly I’m going to do with this life that stretches with uncertainty before me.
It’s all those things, snowballing, threatening to drown me as like some clumsy-footed deer, as I struggle to hold my ground.
It’s the proverbial straws that broke this camel’s back.
It’s me wondering if, in fact, I am Much Afraid, walking through the Valley of Humiliation, trying desperately to get to the heights.
The world crumbles, yet miraculously, I’m still standing. My feet don’t give way. My ankles are stronger than I know, and not only hold me firm but inconceivably, push me forward. I keep moving. I don’t stop. I don’t fall.
I look out over the last few weeks and its horror and frustration, and pain and fear, and instead I see that the dawn is breaking and all things are made new. It’s hope that tomorrow will be better. It’s all the small things that happen in among the big things. The kindness of a friend. The generosity of a stranger. The pay off well deserved.
And mostly, more importantly, it’s the voice that held me firm through every moment. The Good Shepherd who dances with me on crumbling mountain tops and never skips a step, who promises that joy comes in the morning and who whispers every day, ‘Look at that view.’
How’s the view with you?
Next week will be the last IBOT for 2015. We will be breaking for two weeks over Christmas (the Tuesday before and after) and returning with gusto on January the 5th. 🙂