What might be hard for you to imagine is that someone who knew me as a 17-year-old in high school–active in her charismatic mega-churchy youth group–might not recognize me now if they came across these letters or my Instagram account.
In the twenty (gasp! Twenty!) years since I graduated from high school, I’ve changed a lot. Everyone does, of course.
In the essentials, I can easily see how I am the same. But a lot has certainly changed.
Even things I wouldn’t have expected to–spiritual things like how I express my faith and understand the Kingdom of God, as well as life-choice things and priorities–have changed.
Trust me, I never could have expected to be a homeschooling mom. Not. At. All.
But yeah, things change, and I love that it still surprises me sometimes.
For example, as an adult, I have come to love the old hymns. Your dad grew up singing them, and though I was certainly exposed to a lot of them in childhood (and I come from a harmony-singing family), I wouldn’t have really considered myself a hymn singer twenty years ago.
Or at least, twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have considered hymn-singing “real” worship. Because let’s face it, hymns didn’t feel “alive” to me as a teenager, due to my very limited conception of what an active and alive faith looked like.
You, on the other hand, only know a worship that involves hymns. And we sing hymns a lot in our home. (We sing a lot of all kinds of music in our home.)
I really am going somewhere with this, I promise.
For some reason, I decided to be more intentional about teaching you hymns this school year as a supplemental and fun thing to do together. This week, we’re working through our second Fanny Crosby hymn of the year. We started with To God Be the Glory, and now we’re on the second verse of Blessed Assurance. We often sing the hymns we are learning as prayers at meals to practice them, and we work through them slowly, adding each verse and talking through the theology that it expresses. We define old, rich words and discuss their implications and metaphors (and yes, also talk about gendered views of God—you know the sorts of things I can be preachy about).
Two things have surprised me about this practice so far:
First, somehow, even knowing that I was going to explain them to you word by word and line by line, I didn’t anticipate this part of our day being such a theology lesson for you: atonement theories, salvation for the “vilest offender,” perfect submission, what mercy is, or, oh, hey, look, those three metaphors in a row add up to the Trinity! (I do love talking about the Trinity.)
I myself am learning to see more in these hymns I have long known, even in the familiar ones, than I expected to, and, here’s the other thing, I’m carrying their metaphors with me.
When Fanny Crosby writes about visions of angels descending from heaven and bringing with them “echoes of mercy, whispers of love” from above, I get to tuck that away and wonder about it. I get to, and I do.
Because I might not be literally seeing angels around me, or having a divine visions of God, but certainly there are ways I can hear echoes of mercy if I listen for them, even in these monotonous and ordinary days that seem to drag on and on.
Certainly those whispers of love are audible even here, even in this time of divisive political rhetoric, news stories of racial injustice and trauma, more and more people dying from a global pandemic.
Let me be honest, girls: I’m not doing a great job at hearing them right now, the echoes or the whispers.
These days, I’ve been feeling distracted or unsettled or heavy laden or all of the above. It seems that somebody I love is always hurting. It comes through on my text threads. Every day.
Honestly, the whole entire world seems to be hurting. And the lack of empathy for others’ stories is sending my highly sensitive soul into a tailspin. Some days.
And, some days, it’s not nearly so dramatic. In fact, most days there is just too much plain old ordinary repetitive life drowning out the echoes of mercy and whispers of love.
But I know they’re there, girls.
I know it. Even when I’m struggling to hear it.
So, I guess what I mean is, if I can help tune your ears to hear it someday, I’ll consider that a win.
And if you also love to sing the old hymns, well, that’s even better. I’ll sing along.