Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hinds feet on high places

Much Afraid is invited by the Chief Shepherd to leave the valley of humiliation and come up to the high places. She thinks herself not worthy, but does accept his invitation. Now she does not yet have the ability to go running up and down the mountains with her Lord, for she must develop the feet of a gazelle. The only way to do this is through holding onto Sorrow and Suffering, her two companions in the journey.

Of course, her relatives in the valley are not pleased that she has chosen to accept the Shepherd's invitation to come up to the high places, so they send Pride to persuade her to come back. She listens to him until he begins to impune the character of the Shepherd, then she cries out for help, and instantly He is with her, giving pride a beating he will not soon forget.

The second visit comes from Bitterness, Resentment and Self Pity. Much Afraid has been led to a path that follows along the sea of loneliness, and away from the high places. Here is a test: Will she remember the little flower she found at the beginning of her passage into the high places, the flower named Acceptence-with-Joy? The sea of loneliness seems to go on forever. She seems no closer to the High Places than when she left the valley. All is desert around her. She feels very much alone, and does not see the high places at all. Bitterness suggests to her that the Shepherd has made a mistake, or that He is cruel, and has led her down a path of suffering for no reason. Resentment chimes in, adding that the Shepherd has not delivered on his promise to take her to the high places. And of course, Self Pity is her constant companion.

As long as Much Afraid is focusing on her current situation, and looking for immediate relief, all is lost. There is nothing in her current circumstances that answers her desires. The whole land is covered with crosses. Yet she does remember her friend, the little flower Acceptance-with-Joy. Even though nothing in her experience of suffering and sorrow can suggest it, she nevertheless does accept, with joy, the cross, for she knows her Shepherd, that He is a Man of great character, who does not lead her astray. She is not delivered FROM her outward circumstances. She is delivered THROUGH her suffering and sorrow.

And so it was with Our Lord. He is baptized in the Spirit, who declares, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" - yet even our Lord was led out into the desert to be tested. After 40 days of fasting, he began to be hungry. Just like Much Afraid, our Lord is in the middle of a desert, and he, too, is visited by Resentment, Bitterness, and Self Pity. The devil suggests to him that if He truly is the Son of God, he could command these stones to become bread, and that was undoubtedly true - but our Lord has "food to eat that ye know not of". Yes, I am hungry, but I will not use my power to provide for my own needs, for indeed a man shall not live by natural bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Natural bread provides sustanance for the body, but God's daily Word to a man is what gives him supernatural life. Like Much Afaid, our Lord accepts, with joy, the lack of the natural, for He is filled with the supernatural bread. He will not give in to bitterness, resentment or Self Pity because he can see through the current situation. So the devil leaves him "for a more opportune time", looking to the ultimate test of Gethsemene, when Calvary looms, and all of his friends will forsake him. Then He will need the utmost revelation of Glory. When it comes, He will be able to say, "Nevertheless, not my will but Thine".

I head a radio preacher the other day say something so profound I don't think I will ever forget it: If my "happiness" is found in the conditional future, all is lost. I will not find contentment, no matter what my circumstances. If my "happiness" is found in a desire to go back to the "good old days", all is lost, for they are gone, and they weren't so good as I supposed. The essential key is to embrace the present and to fully accept, with joy, the cross set before me. I don't NEED to see a change in my life before I will be happy, whether that be a new job, a wife, a new house, etc. None of those things are evil, but if my focus is on them, placing my hope for contentment in them, then I will spin around hopelessly forever. But if, by Faith, I accept my cross, and practice gratitude at all times, I will find that "all these things" will matter nothing to me, and that they will be "added unto me" - Matthew 6:33.

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