I have a line pencilled into my hopeful sketch of home routines for this year: simply, “Songs and hymns at the piano.” Little Jo gravitates toward the instrument naturally when it is being played; I suspect that as she grows older, music may often serve as a kind usher to bring her into the presence of her Father. It was for her that I made the note.
But I was the one who lingered at the piano yesterday evening, singing through old and new hymns, sight-reading words that seemed to put a capstone on the day. I’m growing to love the unadorned poignancy of the chords, and how they carry through the house and the tumultuous recesses of my own heart.
Difficult news for dear friends and worries from the preceding hours settled into their proper place, gently laid low by songs that others, decades and centuries ago, penned against the hardships of their time. I played through familiar favorites, and pondered the truth of verses I’d never heard.
Then, with my waking thoughts,
Bright with Thy praise
Out of my stony griefs
Bethel I’ll raise
So by my woes to be
Nearer, my God, to Thee
Nearer, my God, to Thee
Nearer to Thee
Measure by measure, they set the world right side up.
By no means are we abandoned.
Though we are small, we matter greatly, because He loves us.
No catastrophe can pluck us from the everlasting arms, but every one is capable of giving us a firmer foothold in our strong tower and refuge, our very present help in time of need.
This is the music of exile, of a people making their way home. These are songs that ring with the remembrance of belonging, and the coming of an overwhelming joy.
This morning someone posted a hymn that was new to me on the Rabbit Room facebook page, sung by Sara Groves. All the old homeward yearning broke open and spilled over as I listened. You can find it here (at about 1:27:30).
There’s a light upon the mountains and the day is at the spring
When our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King
Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seemed so long
But the hearts of men are stirring and we hail it with a song
Oh the hearts of men are stirring
In the fading of the starlight we can see the coming morn
And the lights of men are paling in the splendors of the dawn
For the eastern skies are glowing as with lights of hidden fire
And the hearts of men are stirring with a longing and desire
“Look,” Y said in a low voice yesterday, as I started another song. I glanced behind me to see that Little Jo, our child of active and wriggling age, had climbed up onto a chair and was poring over a hymnal in her lap. I turned back to the keys before she could see that we had noticed her, and then smiled as her little voice heartily joined mine.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty
God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity.
To Him we ask that these words and melodies might sink into our daughters’ hearts, to aid them in their valleys of shadow, and stir in them a longing for their King.
So we sing at eventide, to set our eyes toward the dawn.