Saturday, March 3, 2012

If you would know Love, you must know pain too.

The allegory is a form of literature seldom discussed in the literary/writing worlds. Everyone knows Pilgrim's Progress, though in recent years it has not been as popular. I suppose the most famous allegory in modern literature (though the author said he hadn't intended for it to be taken literally as an allegory) would be The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I can't tell you how many times I've been moved to tears by the beautiful portrayal of the Gospel in the story.

In a way we are all writing allegories--after all, if you've ever looked into Epic by John Eldredge you will realize that all stories are but dim reflections of the one Story that is written by the Author and Finisher of our faith. I loved Epic, for it was a good chance to step backward and view our lives on earth as part of God's plan for the world.

I have never tried writing a true allegory, however. I think it must be rather hard, for one must be sure one's theology is sound [or if it is sound, be sure it comes across that way]. The writer of the allegory is, in part, responsible for how the Gospel is presented--your character strength, your morals, everything must be heightened in order to be faithful to the Story you are trying to tell. It is rather a serious undertaking, I should think. And thus, I am not trying to write a post detailing how to write an allegory. I did, however, wish to share with you my favorite allegory--one that I can truly say revolutionized my relationship with Christ when I first read it five or six years ago.

This book is not well known--at least, I surmise that much from the very little bit about it that came up in a quick Google search. It's called Hind's Feet on the High Places and is written by a woman named Hannah Hurnard. I think what I gained most from this valiant little book was the character of the Good Shepherd as he dealt with Much Afraid. He is tender and loving, yet strong and inflexible:

“O Shepherd. You said you would make my feet like hinds' feet and set me upon High Places".

"Well", he answered "the only way to develop hinds' feet is to go by the paths which the hinds use.”
                                                 -Hind's Feet on the High Places
 I am very like Much-Afraid, I realized. I need my Good Shepherd, and I can come to Him at any point in time. He will always be there with me, even when I can not see Him. It was a profound realization for me--a young girl who desired such a relationship but did not know how to begin. And so I began as Much-Afraid did. I began by putting my hand in Christ's and talking to Him. Telling Him things, asking Him questions, and over all, trusting Him implicitly.

Beyond the obvious wisdom and inspiration to be gleaned from this book, it is beautifully written by a masterful, gentle, passionate pen. The whole book is full of poignant descriptions and parallels.You will love it and be changed by it, I know.

“She bent forward to look, then gave a startled little cry and drew back. There was indeed a seed lying in the palm of his hand, but it was shaped exactly like a long, sharply-pointed thorn… ‘The seed looks very sharp,’ she said shrinkingly. ’Won’t it hurt if you put it into my heart?’

He answered gently, ‘It is so sharp that it slips in very quickly. But, Much-Afraid, I have already warned you that Love and Pain go together, for a time at least. If you would know Love, you must know pain too.’

Much-Afraid looked at the thorn and shrank from it. Then she looked at the Shepherd’s face and repeated his words to herself. ’When the seed of Love in your heart is ready to bloom, you will be loved in return,’ and a strange new courage entered her. She suddenly stepped forward, bared her heart, and said, ‘Please plant the seed here in my heart.’

His face lit up with a glad smile and he said with a note of joy in his voice, ‘Now you will be able to go with me to the High Places and be a citizen in the Kingdom of my Father.’

Then he pressed the thorn into her heart. It was true, just as he had said, it did cause a piercing pain, but it slipped in quickly and then, suddenly, a sweetness she had never felt or imagined before tingled through her. It was bittersweet, but the sweetness was the stronger. She thought of the Shepherd’s words, ‘It is so happy to love,’ and her pale, sallow cheeks suddenly glowed pink and her eyes shown. For a moment Much-Afraid did not look afraid at all.”
― Hannah Hurnard, Hinds' Feet on High Places


Amanda said...

I've just recently started to read Hind's Feet. The truths are so lovely, so simple.

Kira said...

Ahh, Hinds Feet on High Places is one of my absolute favorite books. I'm actually at this moment reading the sequel, "Mountains of Spices", which is another wonderful, enriching book. :)