How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?
In every condition, in sickness, in health,
In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.
Last week during Relief Society this hymn, "How Firm A Foundation", was the one we women sang to close our meeting. This 18th century lyric has become a favorite of mine in recent years. Rather, the extended version is the one I love so well; like they do with most other long hymns, congregations typically only sing the first few verses and leave off what is, in this case, the most beautiful, intimate half. More than half. I usually feel a dull ka-thunk of disappointment inside when this happens, but last week, I felt a much sharper feeling of . . . well, loss. I remember trying to focus my thoughts on giving and contributing while at church, but obviously there was also a hole in me that was begging to be filled, because as we sang this hymn, I found myself actually praying silently--pleading hard--for the chance to give voice to all of its verses, for the opportunity to let them pass through me again. I looked at the clock and watched the chorister carefully--we had plenty of time at the end of the meeting for a little extra singing--and thought, It will happen! But it didn't. I felt as if I would weep. Weep! How is that? Why was I crushed by something so small, so expected?
Today during sacrament meeting, which is the first of our three meetings, we sang the hymn again. The first three verses. I didn't bother praying for the elusive four this time. Again, ka-thunk. Oh, well.
Back in Relief Society again, we had a lesson on . . . well, to tell you the truth, I don't even remember. I do recall that near the end of the hour the teacher said something about the Lord answering our faith, but not always according to our own agendas. It reminded me a line from a great old black gospel song that I find inspiring (and danceable): "Jesus, Jesus--he may not come when you call him, but he's right on time!" I really wanted to throw that out into the discussion, but I wasn't sure all those white girls would know how to take it. Better to enjoy it alone and not disrupt the balance.
Anyway, at the end of the meeting, when it was time for the closing hymn, the teacher requested a song change, and what did we sing? Can you guess? The missing four verses I prayed for last week--not even the first usual three--only mine. I finally got my dose of the better half. That teacher must have heard my heart throbbing. Someone obviously did. If I was to explain here about my pre-church day, and how I spent an hour or two just sitting on the floor in my night shirt, at the mercy of emotional exhaustion, you might have a better idea about how I welcomed these words once I realized they were on the way.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
E'en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for respose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!
I was sitting on the back row of the room, against a wall that adjoins the building's baptismal font. On the last few notes of our hymn, the sound of fast flowing water unexpectedly started behind me. It was lovely and soothing, and I immediately thought of that scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that says of Jehovah: "his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters". I wondered if others were disturbed by the font being filled. For me it was all so heartening and personal; I felt that the Lord really was speaking to me in those moments.