In the beginning we learn that Much-Afraid is not only full of fear inside, but outside she is ugly and deformed. Her face is twisted into a constant frown. Her feet are deformed and it is hard for her to walk. She is easily swayed and constantly taunted by her family of Fearlings.
But, she loves the Shepherd. She works for him in this Valley of Humiliation and longs to be like the deer pouncing along the high places with feet perfect for the journey. The first five chapters bring us into her daily struggle and the invitation from the Shepherd to join him on the journey to high places. He promises that he will give her a new name and a new body. But she will have to be ready to join him when he calls for her. She finally escapes her Fearling family and joins the Shepherd at the foot of the mountains and while she stands there, staring at the journey ahead she asks him why he can’t just carry her?
I love this question and her blatant honesty with the Shepherd. And his gentleness in answering her is even more lovely. He reminds her that he could carry her, but in carrying her up she would never develop the hinds feet that she would need to live up there on these high places. It is only in the journey that the transformation can occur. How often do we just long for the Lord to take the cup from us? For God to just carry us through it…to make the way easier for us? While He certainly can and sometimes does; more often He doesn’t. And we so often view it as a punishment. But that is so far from the truth. It’s in us walking through the hardness, the loneliness, the way away from where we thought we were going that we are fastened more to Him and made more like Him.
She is given two guides: Sorrow and Suffering and she immediately shrinks away from them. She tries hard not to need them; to use the help that the Shepherd has given her. But as she tries to go up that first summit, she realizes that she can’t go on alone. Her cousin Pride enters and tries to turn her back. Tries to convince her that the way is foolish. She calls out to the Shepherd and she learns that she must take the hands of her guides in order to make it. She has to give in to sorrow and suffering.