I’m learning that, for those of us who grew up in the church, there are all sorts of stories that emerge when we think of these hymns. They mean something different to each of us, but it seems that the experience of remembering these tunes or words is something we share. Interesting. I keep coming back to the idea that music can serve as a means of unifying us despite our differences, and this sharing of memories, both precious and amusing, is sort of encouraging to me.
Why amusing? Well, this week’s hymn was given to me by an aunt who shared another childhood memory. I found it quite funny, but maybe one has to have the benefit of being in the same situation to fully appreciate it! She wrote, ” I can still hear the older ladies in my childhood church singing at the tops of their voices to hit the high notes. The range did not discourage them from singing as loud as they could!” Funny because I have certainly been in the situation of hearing people belt out a high note out of sheer enthusiasm – and with little concern for whether the note could actually be reached. There is a temptation to cringe. But, there is also a big part of me that admires those who sing with complete abandon because they believe in the words or simply love singing.
The text of this hymn was written by Gerhard Tersteegen in the early 1700s. He was raised in the Reformed Church in Germany, but left the church to pursue his own spirituality as a mystic and leader of a small group of “awakened souls” that were devoted to meditation and translation of the works of earlier mystics and quietists. The words of the first verse bring to mind the transcendent experience of singing with abandon. Of being committed to one’s truth regardless of the conventions or trends surrounding us – kind of how Tersteegen lived his spiritual life.
O pow’r of love, all else transcending,
In Jesus present evermore,
I worship Thee, in homage bending,
Thy name to honor and adore.
Yea, let my soul, in deep devotion,
Bathe in love’s mighty boundless ocean.
Bathe in love’s mighty, boundless ocean. Wow. To find my soul in that space sort of diminishes any requirement to worry about hitting a high note. Although, it also kind of requires me to seek out the best high note possible. A powerful image inspiring both courageous confidence and the pursuit of excellence. Singing at the top of our voices, whether an older lady or not, is an honour and a gift. It sort of means we’ve really committed to whatever it is that grounds us; settled in to wherever we find love’s boundless ocean. So, regardless of what form your voice takes, sing.