In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lead, Kindly Light

Remember those lilies I was considering a while back? I was seeking answers in the Gospel of Matthew, ch. 6, to my constant fretting about not having enough time to do the things that seem to me so rewarding and worthwhile--historical research and writing, genealogy, blogging, etc., and the lack of enduring happiness I feel as a result. I wondered whether God really wanted us to be like the lilies--content with the beauty He gave them--and if so, why I (and many other people) was given a restless mind and an eagerness to strive and grow. I discerned that I should be more patient, but didn't feel satisfied with that answer. Then, I recently looked at Matthew 6 again and was drawn to verse 33, wherein we're counseled to "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." It's true that in this context the Lord was expressly talking about taking no thought for what to eat or drink, or what to wear. But perhaps the lesson applies also to higher personal goals and interests, notwithstanding their worthiness, that we can become so fixated upon as to blind us from other plans that God may have for us. Maybe the trick is to seek "first the kingdom of God"--study scripture, pray unceasingly, be honest and generous with others, do the right thing and serve wherever one can--and happiness and fulfillment will come in ways that God wills and that serve His loving plans for us, even if we can't see them just yet. Knowing our hearts, it may be that He will bless us with those goodly things we desire, as well: "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." (Psalms 37:4) Or if not, perhaps He will lead us to glory in ways even more wonderful, that are simply beyond our imagination.

This idea was reinforced for me one recent Sunday when, in a church service with talks themed on the blessings and eternal value of knowledge, one of the hymns sung was Lead, Kindly Light. With text composed by Anglican churchman (and future Roman Catholic Cardinal) John Henry Newman in 1833, the hymn relates the experience of one who once was determined to pursue his own goals in his own way, who "loved to choose and see my path," who "loved the garish day," and whose will was ruled by pride. Now, the hymnist prays God to "Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me." Watch and listen to the beautiful video below, sung by Aled Jones, with text just below that (including a later additional verse by Edward H. Bickersteth):

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed
That Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path;
But now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me,
Sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent,
Till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.
I do believe this is the answer I've been seeking: simply to let God lead; follow His light first, rather than my own; and happiness and fulfillment will be mine at last, however and whenever God wills that to happen. Father Knows Best!


The Tom and Donna Johnson Family said...

I have often though I would like this hymn sang at my funeral, although I like the tune I am more familiar with that I sing from the LDS hymnbook. Thanks for sharing.

It's A Wonderful said...

What beautiful sentiments, Tom. I love the verses you cited, I'll be thinking of those today. I cannot possibly add any thoughts more eloquent than yours, so I'll just carry your thoughts in my heart today. Thank you! XXOO

Robert said...

Thanks for posting the hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light,"--and for including Bickersteth's fine stanza. (He did the same with "Nearer, My God, to Thee," giving the original a more finished feel.

For an unusual story about the singing of this hymn, I invite you to check out my Wordwise Hymns blog for today and the article "Strange Instruments." God bless.