It happens at that moment when the dragon who has haunted my life for months gives one final gurgling gasp and collapses at my feet, and my triumphant shout of victory rings and echoes off the mountain ranges. I pull my sword out of his throat…
And that’s when I see it.
And I sigh so deeply that my chain mail rattles and groans and sounds like a creaking sob.
What do I see? It is the head of another, larger and more heavily armored dragon then the one I have just vanquished, looming up out of the mist of the valley at my feet.
I know this monster, too, is headed my way. I cannot stay here on the mountaintop. I must descend, and prepare once more to fight.
I’ve always wondered why bad things happen. Yes, I know all the clichés just as well as you do. “All things happen for a reason.” “Whatever doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.” Got it. But my question is, when does stronger turn into strong enough?
Living life is hard. Why in the world can’t I just have a success, and then climb up to the next rung of the ladder of life….
instead of inevitably falling completely off of it again and again?
Why is life such a valley-mountaintop experience?
Why is life a CONSTANT struggle against evil?
Have you ever heard of Hind’s Feet on High Places? I am currently addicted to that book.
When I was younger, I read it mainly for the vivid pictures on every page. The words didn’t really sink in. But on a trip to Canada last spring, I listened to the words again. And suddenly, in a smack-upside-the-head revelation, all I could think was, “Shoot! That’s me! That’s me, that trembling waif who is weeping by the side of the trail, whose fears of what the unknown might ask of her loom greater than the giants of her past. That’s me, that girl with deformed legs and weak, trembling feet.”
I know this Much Afraid very well, because a large part of her lives inside of me.
My favorite part of the book was when Much Afraid stopped one day to rest beside a jumping, splashing brook. As she listened closely to the sounds the brook was making, she was amazed to hear the water actually singing these words:
Come, oh come! Let us away– lower, lower every day,
Oh, what joy it is to race, down to find the lowest place.
This is the dearest law we know– “It is happy to go low.”
Sweetest urge and sweetest will, “Let us go down lower still.”
Hear the summons night and day, calling us to come away.
From the heights we leap and flow, to the valleys down below.
Always answering to the call, to the lowest place of all.
Sweetest urge and sweetest pain, to go low and rise again.
“That is very puzzling,” said Much-Afraid [to the Shepherd]. ” ‘Let us go down lower still,’ the water seems to be singing so gladly, because it is hurrying to go down to the lowest place, and yet You are calling me to the Highest Places. What does it mean?”
“The High Places,” answered the Shepherd, “are the starting places for the journey down to the lowest place in the world. When you have hinds’ feet and can go ‘leaping on the mountains and skipping on the hills,’ you will be able, as I am, to run down from the heights in the gladdest self-giving and then go up to the mountains again. You will be able to mount to the High Places swifter than eagles, for it is only up on the High Places of Love that anyone can receive the power to pour themselves down in the utter abandonment of self-giving.”
To POUR myself down in the utter abandonment of self-giving?
To run down from the heights in the GLADDEST self-giving and then go up to the mountains again?
To go low and rise again?
This is the lesson of the river. A lesson that it sings with utmost joy and gusto. Ever moving, ever rushing. Full of life and energy.
I’m pretty sure that the song of the brook just gave me a brilliant new note of happiness in the middle of my question. Why is life a CONSTANT struggle? Because I am growing, and evil is real. It does not want me to grow, and so it makes it hard.
But you know what makes my journey joyful? Knowing that every time I tumble off of my plateau of success and into the muck of the valley, I can pull a little stone out of the sludge (Much Afraid’s memorial for the lessons she learned) and use it in the future to pull someone else out of the muck of the valley. Someone who is weaker; a used-to-be-me.
I still don’t like the valley.
But the Father is teaching me how to use more and more tools which make my time there recede. And it is AWESOME to take someone up to the High Places with me. After all, what fun is a mountaintop experience without someone to party with?
Sweetest joy and sweetest pain… to go low and RISE AGAIN.
You know I actually get the best of both worlds though, right? Because one time…. sometime, it will be my last trip out of the Valley.
And then I’ll get to party in the High Places FOREVER. That, my friend, is exciting.
Now, if you’ll excuse me….. I gotta go find my sword.
I have a dragon to kill.
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