When my family moved across the state for my Dad’s new job I was only 10 years old. Everything about my life changed. Everyone I knew, besides my immediate family, was far away. In the middle of the upheaval, my mom gave me a book to read called Hinds Feet in High Places (By Hannah Hurnard). The main character is Much-Afraid. She meets the Good Shepherd and goes on a journey up the mountain. She meets Sorrow and Suffering who become her travel companions. Along the way she over comes fear, difficult circumstances, and loneliness. Until She Meets the King at the top of the Mountain, the High Places. Where she receives a new name: Grace and Glory.
At the time I did not understand half the allegorical story. But I took comfort in the fact that even though Much-Afraid was sad and scared Jesus made it all right in the end. Sometime later I was reading through the book of Habakkuk and found a passage that harkened back to that old allegory from my childhood. “God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like hinds’ feet, he makes me tread upon my high places.” (Hab. 3:19 RSV) It is the very last verse of the book. Up until this point Habakkuk is about the violence and wrong that the prophet sees during his life. He talks about choices and consequences with God. Wrapping up with a poem about the wrath of God and the sorrow it evokes. It’s pretty heavy.
I remember reading that final verse as a teen and thinking of hidden mountain top meadows, free of struggle and full of peace. I associated Psalm 23, its green pastures and still waters, with this unhindered deer leaping from good to good. I was sorely disappointed when that was not what I experienced in my walk of faith.
Last year, my science loving son and I watched yet another nature documentary with a segment on the ibex. It’s a type of goat found in north-east Africa and Eurasia. Ibex live high in the mountains far away from predators. They have a problem though, there is not enough water in the mountain tops so they have to climb down to reach fresh water sources and grazing. The thing is, the mountains they live in tend to be more sheer-cliff type of mountains, then gently sloping type.
The ibex can balance on what seems like a half inch of a ledge. Not only balance, but leap from half inch to half inch. Until they nonchalantly reach the bottom for cocktail hour. Only to finish and leap their way back up the sheer cliffs to the safety of their high places.
I’ve even seen videos of these creatures scaling the cobbled and slick surface of an old dam to drink from water seeping out of cracks. Look up the ibex. You won’t regret it.
The ibex got me thinking about Habakkuk. Mountain tops are barren. Sheer cliff living is terrifying and uncertain. Much like the sorrow and loss of Habakkuk, or the journey of Much-Afraid. It was never about meadows or still waters. It was about the feet.
What I mean is this: God wasn’t promising to change the terrain of my journey. He doesn’t seem to have any intention to change my life to suit my comfort zone and preferences. God was promising to give me hinds feet that can handle the terrain I’m traveling. God has every intention to change me, or rather, transform me.
If I find myself living in times such as Habakkuk, full of sorrow and consequences, maybe even consequences of the actions of someone else, God will give me feet and agility like the ibex. So even though life has turned into sheer cliffs with half inch ledges, I can leap and thrive in the midst of it to find springs of living water and safety from my enemies.