This week’s hymn comes to us from a friend who said that he often found himself praying this hymn when he needed guidance or direction. I thought that was a beautiful way to think of a hymn – as a prayer. I know many hymns are just that, but this is a tiny gem that asks very simply for a clear view of where to go and how to find safety.
Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness,
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.
I couldn’t find a great deal of information about this hymn but it was written in 1861 by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, the grandson of the more famous hymn writer Charles Wesley. At the time it was popular to write what were known as verse anthems. These were multi-sectional pieces designed, in combination with unison and choral parts, to show off the talents of the various soloists within a church choir. Lead Me Lord is an excerpt from one of these longer anthems, Praise the Lord, O My Soul.
I think the sentiment of these words is quite powerful. The idea that walking in righteousness clarifies our path and leads to safety is something to consider. I appreciate that the language used here carries a bit of baggage for some of us – righteousness sounds a bit close to self-righteous and implies a very specific way of understanding the world. But when I look at what righteousness actually means – justice, decency, honesty – I find myself thinking that this is, indeed, a way to clarify the path I want to be on. Making decisions about how I want to live based on the notion of justice also leads me on a very specific path. And, the safety found on that path is beyond my own. Justice requires safety for all. For me, to dwell in safety requires a broader understanding than simply a personal space for myself and those closest to me. Safety of the few is thin; and it is unjust.
So as I pray this hymn, my hope is that I will see clearly the path of real righteousness and that I will have the courage to walk that path. A path that is paved with justice and provides safety for all. This is where I wish to dwell.