26 February 2006

Rushing waters

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.


Jamie said...

Beautiful, beautiful post, Georgia. I thought of the Savior's voice the momsent I read the tilte of your post. I had to miss church today due to much vomitting, and for once, Rich stayed, too, becuase he was up all night with fever, ear ache and cough. ALthough it was nice to snuggle, rest, read, and sing as a family today, I am missing church so much. I have only been three times the whole year doe to pneumonia and the like. I even came up this evening to sing hymns at the piano, I miss it all so much. I just wanted to say that I feel the EXACT same way about "How Firm a Foundation," especially the last verse. I sang it in a trio once when the prophet came to Tucson, and he entered as we were singng. He passed our podium and paused to smile, wave and listen. All of us struggled to keep singing as we got lumps in our throats. I love it not only for the comforting personal message, but also for the fact that it's the song I sang for President Hinckley.

Bluebell said...

What a beautiful post. I have had the same feelings of longing to sing those last four verses; they are so much more poignant than the first three. They have become especially meaningful to me over the past several years as our family has waded through increasingly difficult trials. Perhaps in the next edition of the hymnal someone will reverse the order!

Geo said...

Jamie: Oh, do get better, you Melinheads! Sounds like you need somebody to come over and play nurse for a while. Little girlies are sweet, but not much real help when both the parents are down with sickness.

That's a beautiful remembrance you have connected with that hymn. It's something you can even pass down, a spiritual heirloom. Very dear. I hope in the next life I get a great singing voice. wonder what I have to do right in this life to ensure that that happens?

Bluebell: A warm welcome to you! I enjoy reading your blog regularly. Your photos are so lovely too.

The change I'm hoping for in the next version of the hymnbook is the return of the line "you who unto Jesus" (from "How Firm A Foundation"! Even though we don't sing it that way anymore, I still laugh when I get to the spot where the old phrase should be ("who unto the Savior"). Maybe you aren't old enough to have enjoyed the yoohoo era.

Jamie said...

I remember the "you-hoo unto Jesus" era and I though as a kid that it meant calling on the Savior, as in, "You-hoo, Jesus, need some help over here..." That memory goes right along with "There is sunshine in my soul today/ more glorious than yours."

Geo said...

Ha! I missed that one, but I'll think of it from now on. How funny.

I still want to holler yoohoo unto Jesus everytime I sing that hymn. For me as a kid it was such a friendly thought. More like, "Hey, I'm still here! Are you still there? Hi!"

~j. said...

My brother: "I always want to be with my own family-y-y...

...we wish to welcome you to Munchkinland."

~j. said...

Oh! I know it's a few days later, but in the spirit of the Yoohoo era, I submit to you my husband's favorite hymn to hear in Utah only: We'll Sing All Hail (pronounced 'hell') to Jesus' Name.

That is all. :)

Geo said...

~j.: you'll probably never see this reply to your comments, because it's taken me so long to post it, but your song lyrics make me want to cry from laughing. I can't remember if "Little Purple Pansies" is still a Primary song these days, but when I was a teenager, one of the littlest Sunbeams used to sing the lyric this way:

"Little purple panties,
Touched with yellow gold . . . "