Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Having grown up in church, I loved when people sang the old hymns a cappella. There is nothing more beautiful to my ears than human voices in harmony, and this event resounds even more and gives me chills when those voices are singing about how much they love their Creator!
After the contemporary Christian music phase swept through more modern churches in my teens and young adult years, and now in the era of Bethel and Hillsong, I recently attended a tiny community church that still sings the old hymns of my youth. With all I’ve learned in the last few years, and how closely I draw to my God now, after all the hardships and struggles and learning to trust, I remember those hymns and I am heartbroken to hear them sung by empty-hearted congregants who simply go with the motions and sing with absolutely no feeling at all, clearly not meaning any of the words they sing. For me, the words in these songs make me weep to the point that I can no longer sing - not because they remind me of sadness, or the past that I miss, but just the opposite: I am beyond grateful and completely reborn to sing these songs and to truly, completely, MEAN THEM. I don’t just sing them because everyone else does - if I don’t mean it, I don’t sing it. And when I DO sing it, I MEAN IT with all my heart.
My kids recently learned about the hymn called “Nearer My God, To Thee.” I have to admit, I hadn’t heard it much before, if ever, and I certainly had no idea what most of the lyrics were, past the title. When we researched it we found the words so simple it was almost unbelievable - that a song could be that short and repetitive - but it truly was the most heartfelt cry I’ve ever heard, for a spirit to long to be with its Creator. And my own spirit couldn’t help but deeply agree as I heard the a cappella version here - that the song of my spirit will always be “Draw me closer to You, my God!” And as I longed, in that moment, to be as close as possible to Him, which is still so far away, I realized that this song is sung by people nearly every Sunday in little old community churches, and nobody means it. They ask to be closer to God, and when He gives them the opportunity, they decline and even come to hate Him for doing exactly what they asked!
My daughter is fascinated with the videos online of people singing 4+ part harmony with themselves… and once she watched “Nearer My God, To Thee,” she found many more hymns sung similarly by the same person. As I went along with my projects, I listened to the songs I grew up hearing in church but had never experienced the truth of… she played “It Is Well With My Soul,” “Lily of the Valley,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (my favorite!), “How Great Thou Art,” “Just As I Am”... and then she played “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus.” And as I sang along with "Tis So Sweet," I was floored at how much each of these songs are a tribute to a life shaped by learning to trust.
How does one learn to trust? By encountering opportunities that require trust.
I can completely and wholeheartedly state that my spirit sings the following lyrics day in and day out, with and without music:
“Give me opportunities to trust You more!” (Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus)
“Whatever my circumstance, I have learned to trust You!” (It Is Well With My Soul)
“I want You more than anything else!” (Lily of the Valley)
“You draw me to You - I can't help it!” (Just As I Am)
“All I have needed Your Hand has provided!" (Great Is Thy Faithfulness)
“You amaze me - I can't help but see how awesome You are!” - (How Great Thou Art)
“Draw me even closer to You, my God!” (Nearer My God, To Thee)