Saint Augustine famously captures the deepest longing of the human heart when, in the opening verses of the Confessions, he declares to God, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Published in 1955, Hinds’ Feet on High Places is an allegory in which author Hannah Hurnard recounts this romance and adventure of seeking God in the life of a single soul. The title and narrative are based on a passage from Habakkuk 3 (and echoed in Psalm 18) in which the prophet states, “God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, He makes me tread upon my high places.”
Is this not, Hurnard suggests, man’s deepest longing—to respond to God’s call to go with Him upon the heights of love?
Consequently, as the journey to the High Places begins, the main character, appropriately named Much-Afraid, becomes a type for every individual. Much-Afraid is among those truly human souls conscious of the great, God-sized desires that draw them forward, yet nevertheless carrying the burdens of paralyzing fear and vision-impairing sin (the narrator describes Much-Afraid as having disfigured feet and a severely blemished face).
As she progresses toward God, Much-Afraid encounters innumerable trials: pride which causes her to stumble and hesitate along the way, the aridity of the desert which tempts her to turn back, and a divided will which struggles to commit itself fully to the task entrusted to her. God, toward whom she is treading—often arduously—is nevertheless present with Much-Afraid in every trial, gently beckoning her forward and providing her with the courage necessary to persevere. After many difficulties, Much-Afraid has learned that the secret to holiness is, in fact, the resolve to surrender her will to God’s. It is in this act of surrender that she discovers freedom and joy, and when she finally arrives in the High Places, her physical disfigurements are healed and her will is strengthened to give itself in love.
Hurnard’s story, though perhaps not boasting the literary popularity of comparable allegorical works by C.S. Lewis, will undoubtedly resonate with any soul desirous of leaving the valleys of fear and self-absorption and traveling to the heights of love. In this way, it is a book for all, and it will doubtless console those for whom trials are numerous and the journey is arduous. As Hurnard insists, “there are no obstacles which our Savior’s love cannot overcome, and … to Him, mountains of difficulty are as easy as an asphalt road!”
Nicole O’Leary is a senior studying Theology, Medieval Studies, and Italian. While reading this book on the subway, she was approached by a stranger who asked, without any apparent provocation, “Is that a book about sharks?” They proceeded to have an hour-long conversation. To discuss books about love, God, or even aquatic predators, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.