(This is a continuation of this story. I am the central character in this one.)
I read about half of Hurnard's journal entries, and stopped because I couldn't wait to begin her allegory based on her experiences in Switzerland.
I flipped to the front and began, still alone on the cafe patio, ears open.
Much-Afraid is the central character of this story. She lives in the Valley of Humiliation and works as a shepherdess. However, she has an unfortunate heritage. She comes from the Fearing family, whose other members are ruthless antagonists. Her many relatives, including Gloomy, Spiteful, Craven Fear, Pride, Bitterness, and Self-pity assault her daily with their words and their constant presence. She is continually cowering and full of anguish as she knows no way to escape their constant oppression. And worse, her relatives know a small part of her defies them. She is not fully controlled by them, so they plot to kidnap her and force a marriage between she and Craven Fear, the most hideous of her cousins. This arrangement would effectively enslave her. Much-Afraid is nearly paralyzed by these creatures, as Fearing is a part of her being. It is who she is, what she was named, and into what she has literally been born.
But she can see there is something more beyond her pathetic existence: the High Places, the mountains above the Valley of Humiliation, suggest a hope which seems just out of reach for her. Much-Afraid has crippled feet, and knows there is no way she could reach them.
One day, expressing her despair to the Chief Shepard at the watering hole, he makes a surprising offer. He could actually change her; he could make her feet like the hinds' and bring her on a journey to the High Places, away from her Fearing family forever. It is an offer too good to be true. Much-Afraid has a lot of questions and a very, very little sense of self-worth, but she accepts the offer. She knows that if she is to survive, she has to. She also knows that her relatives hate the Chief Shepard and will do whatever possible to thwart her association with him. Therefore, her escape is to be carried out in secret, so that she can avoid the opposition her family members are sure to arrange. She is to follow the Chief Shepard at his signal, as he passes by the window of her cottage on an unannounced day.
The scene at the cottage when the Chief Shepard passes by giving the secret sign is a harrowing one. I won't spoil it, but as expected, the relatives throw their vicious plot to apprehend Much-Afraid into motion.
* * *
Familiarity. The base of that word is the same as that of "family." What is familiar is very, very powerful. I too was born into a family that hates the Chief Shepherd. Not my blood family; I'm not talking about my parents. I'm talking about Adam and Eve's family, the descendants of those who rebelled against God. Every one of us is born into that rebellion with a question stamped onto our hearts: Can't I just run my own life? So we are not sinners because we sin. It is the other way around: we sin because we are sinners, born into it by heritage. With that heritage comes a whole host of relatives who hate the Chief Shepard, the ultimate source of love and rescue.
(This is why the Bible says that once we invite Jesus into our lives, we are adopted into His family. We are accepted into His family by His choice to love us, not by birth.)
The hardest thing each of us will ever have to face is turning our backs on our original family. Fears, thoughts, and arguments that rise up against Jesus and His truth can become so familiar that they may as well be our brothers and sisters. Why not call them what they are? We listen to them, trust them, and base our decisions on their guidance far more often than we trust what our spouse says, or best friend. Think about it. Which family members are your greatest enemies?
(Sigh...) Mine are different from one season to the next, and once I have shut the door on one, another tries to overtake me. Pride is always so subtly familiar. She seems so logical and fair. Self-Pity has become a closer sister since I became a mom. It's so easy to think about my pre-kids life through her lens. Bitterness comes knocking as soon as a hint of tension arises in my marriage. Her encouragement to just back away from what may hurt you feels like a good idea now and again. And then there is Fear. She always has a LOT to say, and about everything, always in the name of protection. Whether I want them to be or not, my relatives are constant advisors.
None of my relatives wants me to meet Trust. None of my relatives understand Faith or Grace. None of them actually know Love or care about me at all. In fact, they want my ruin. They want to own me.
And even more, the Chief Shepard wants to rescue me from them. This is not just fictional drama. Much-Afraid's desparate situation is ours. If I want healing so I can go to the High Places....even if I am driven simply by curiousity about what the Chief Shepard has to offer....this offer of an alternative way of thinking and being....
I need to stop listening to my relatives. I need to turn my back on my family. And run.