I love Spirituals. They are so filled with story and emotion. They have hidden meanings and deep pain, faith and strength. And they are often such beautiful, simple tunes that can evoke so much feeling. I couldn’t find much information on this one, other than many variations of the words, but there is an explanation of it that I found revealing.  It is said to be a reference to what was left to the freed slaves after the American Civil War. In other words, in a state of extreme poverty and an absence of worldly possessions or the means to earn a living, there is a sense that the words “you can have all this world” were a criticism of how these people were treated following this apparent victory. But the claim of “give me Jesus” also implies deep faith in what was a time of increasing religiosity.

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus,
You can have all this world,
Give me Jesus.

I’ve chosen to place this one in Lent because it continues with the theme of facing our spiritual journey alone. We must all come to terms with how to do that and how, specifically, we face the ultimate personal experience of death. Not something we like to talk about, but something we all carry in common.

Oh, when I am alone,
Oh, when I am alone,
Oh, when I am alone,
Give me Jesus.

Oh, when I come to die,
Oh, when I come to die,
Oh, when I come to die,
Give me Jesus.

It really is a testament to someone’s faith or spiritual strength to sing words like these. To be so confident in the source of strength even in the darkest, loneliest moments, is very moving. It is inspiring. I suspect it is rare. I think we spend our lives searching for that personal confidence and strength – hoping to have it when our time arrives. I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing this since my Sunday School days, but I think the secret to this kind of deep faith and spiritual strength lies in what we do every day. The strength that carries us through challenges is built by choice and over time. Perhaps looking for it every morning allows us to be comforted by it in the evening, and to be carried by it through the night. What a thing to learn from those freed slaves. What a legacy for us to honour.

In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus.