The Making of Hinds' Feet

Hinds' Feet cover

It was winter, and time to head North again. Most were going South, fleeing the icy blasts that had taken over their world—but not me. I aimed my hood ornament toward the coldest spot—Minnesota—and slowly, painfully clicked off section after section of Interstate. Each ribbon of tar thumped out a dull, rhythmic mockery of my predicament. The physical points of Departure and Destination were plain, yet somewhere in between, I had no clear idea where I was headed. Of course, as I look back on it now, it is clear enough. I didn't know where I was headed because I had not yet departed. I was holding on, claiming squatters' rights on the homefront of dreams and desires. And so, though the strips of concrete marked out my path for miles ahead, inside I wandered, aimless. The pitch of this wandering, whirling frustration had increased steadily ever since I'd left home.

Somewhere in Iowa I came over a hill and the road stretched out to the horizon under gray slabs of cloud. Slowly and surely, the marble ceiling pressed down, until it nearly scraped the top of my car. Behind and on both sides closed in a swirl of discontented memories:

A man lying on a bed under an August moon. Very close, very close to his dream. He reaches out, leans toward it over the edge of a bottomless chasm, and just as he touches it: life, love, fire—he falls. Tumbles as his stomach contracts and his heart breaks. “Lord, it's not right that anyone should have this much power over another human being.” The shaking gradually subsides, tears run dry, and he spends the entire night on the floor, rocking with knees in arms, staring into the blackness.

There's a man driving toward a Missouri bridge, and as he approaches, he suddenly realizes that he has left his heart behind him in some Wyatt Earp town, and that he must return for it, though it cost more than he can pay.

There's a man looking into a stream, and he sees himself reflected in loving arms, kissing sweet phantoms with seaweed hair and flashing eyes. The longed-for faces of a thousand passers-by wash past and he feels the current pulling him down, down with warm, inexorable, waving fingers...

I shook under the tremendous weight of stone and impossibilities and longed for oblivion. Knowing I was very near some kind of limit, I screamed out at God: if He did not come to my rescue in this very moment I would make my own end to this neverending road of mine—so help me, I would drive into that cement piling just ahead.

As I looked helplessly, nervously, around my shrinking car, I noticed the book that lay on the front seat, Hinds' Feet on High Places. My hand flew out to the book automatically and opened it. I began reading voraciously, throwing words into my eyes like bits of flesh to a starving animal. I read again of Much-Afraid in the Valley of Humiliation, and of her longing for deliverance—love. I listened with her in amazement as the Lord promised a life free of disfigurement on the High Places—a place where she—we—would finally be loved in return.

I felt the pain of the seed of love implanted—the pain that could not be distinguished from delight—and the humiliation of being entrusted to Sorrow and Suffering. Then came the terrible encounter with Pride (an encounter with which I could all too readily relate), and the turning of the path down toward the desert, directly away from the High Places. Much-Afraid protested pitifully that this was an absolute contradiction of His promises. And then the Shepherd's reply: “It is not contradiction, only postponement for the best to become possible... Do you love me enough to accept the postponement and the apparent contradiction of the promises and to go down with me into the desert?”

It was in that bleak moment that Much-Afraid built the first of many altars on her journey. On it she laid down her trembling, rebelling will.

Tears dropped down on my chest as I closed the book. The highway blurred. It had begun to rain. Lord, can this horrible moment—when it seems that You've forgotten all about your promises to me—can it be part of your plan, part of a “postponement, so the best may become possible”? A few moments ago I could not even think of such a thing, much less believe it. But now—now You have spoken, and I, too, lay down my will—my trembling, rebelling will. Lord, You may do with me as You please.

The next two afternoons, as I practiced in a church near my Minneapolis home base, the Lord gave me music to the songs which Much-Afraid and the Shepherd sang to each other (all taken from the Song of Solomon). The story unfolded in my mind like a movie, and as I imagined scene after scene, music echoed throughout the hills with laughter and accompanied every sorrow.

When I returned home after my trip, I contacted Tyndale House and received permission to use the lyrics in the songs. I sent a tape to Mike, then my producer (with Eden Records). He was very excited, but unfortunately, since we had just completed another recording (The Singer album), there was neither time nor money for yet another album at the moment.

Over four years later, in the spring of 1982, Mike and I were brainstorming in my apartment. The Lord had blessed him in his business, he said, and he was ready to embark on another recording project (if one can ever be ready!). We had talked of several possibilities, but Hinds' Feet quickly came to the forefront of the discussion. “If you could use anybody in the world to record the music, who would you choose?” he asked.

In my mind, the strains of Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony began. The version I heard was my well-worn favorite, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. That recording seemed to move me as no other has done—before or since. “The Royal Philharmonic,” I answered. I expected a laugh—the kind of chuckle Mike had used before in answer to my harebrained schemes.

“Well, let's call them,” he said, matter-of-factly.

My mind raced. Call them? What do you mean, call them? The idea seemed preposterous, but a few days later, I phoned London...and we arranged to record with them at Abbey Road Studios.

Much of the music for the orchestral interludes was derived from the songs themselves, especially the opening melody of “The Song of Songs.” This melody appears again and again throughout the work in various guises: major, minor, compressed, elongated, inverted, in retrograde, in simple restatement. That melody came to signify to me the promise.

Throughout that summer we sought advice from friends and revamped a couple of the songs. Now and then, I walked alone under the stars and prayed to the Good Shepherd. I asked that He would so bless this music, that no one would ever be able to hear it without realizing how much we are loved by God.