It is a rare person that makes it through this life without moments, long or short, of deep pain. Times that challenge, bend and sometimes break us. Days (weeks, months, years) that take every bit of energy we have to move forward. Sometimes this pain is circumstantial. Sometimes it is about health – physical or mental. Sometimes we are able to share it with others, sometimes we are not.
As I was thinking about the reality of the presence of pain in our lives, I was drawn to the section of my hymnal that is intended for use at funerals. In these special hymns, there are words – and melodies – that are meant to comfort us; to help us walk through our most difficult of moments. These hymns are, understandably, often about reassuring those that grieve. Reminding them that their loved ones have moved on to a place of beauty. Moved on to a place where their pain is finished, where they are reunited with those that have gone before, and are able to meet their God with joy. Comforting, indeed.
This particular hymn was written in 1864 by Richard Torry. I understand that we all have different views on spirituality and what it means for this life, and the next, should we believe that there is something beyond the now. But these words convey the message that as we pass from this world, we follow a beautiful stream to a place of freedom from pain, and comfort for our weary souls. And, I suppose, regardless of what we believe, there is an idea that somehow in death, we are welcomed home.
Oh, have you not heard of the beautiful stream
That flows through the promised land?
Its waters gleam bright in the heavenly light,
And ripple o’er golden sand.
Its fountains are deep and its waters are pure,
And sweet to the weary soul.
It flows from the throne of Jehovah alone,
O come where its bright waves roll.
This beautiful stream is the river of life,
It flows for all nations free.
A balm for each wound in its waters is found;
O sinner, it flows for thee.
Oh, will you not drink of this beautiful stream,
And dwell on its peaceful shore?
The Spirit says: Come, all ye weary ones, home,
And wander in sin no more.
As always, I am left thinking that there is much more to these words for those of us still wandering amidst the realities of life. There is something to be said about these beautiful streams that carry us through our living pain. Sometimes they run into each other, follow the same path, merge, diverge; these streams that are everywhere.
The streams we are given. Our parents, grandparents, mentors, teachers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, families. These people that flow through our lives and offer wisdom and knowledge. That prepare us for what’s ahead. That give us tools to swim.
The streams we seek. Our doctors and nurses, our therapists, our counsellors. Our ministers, rabbis and imams. These people that provide what we need to be healthy. The ones that are trained to offer life preservers when the waters are rough and we are unable to swim.
The streams we stumble across by accident. Our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours. These people that support us and help us grow. The ones that walk with us as we become who we wish to be. The ones that share burdens – great and small. The ones that say good morning. The ones that say good night.
The streams we discover. The places and experiences we treasure. The beauty of nature. The fullness of music. The energy of activity. The freshness of the air. The exquisite depth of a painting. The skill of the talented.
The streams we choose. Those nearest to us. Our mates. Our partners. Our closest of friends. Our dearest companions. These special souls that understand our pain. That carry our pain with us. That remind us of all the streams we have access to, even when we can’t see them for ourselves. The ones that sit with us when we are dying because their love is great and their generosity allows them to put aside their own sadness in order to walk us through that final stream.
For all these small and large rivers of water that flow, I am grateful. For myself, and, as I look out upon others’ lives. And, in the refrain of this hymn, I hope we can find some understanding of how we are all connected. These streams may not be easy to navigate, as we seek to find them or to be them, but they are a means of finding our home. And they offer ways to provide safe spaces in which to feel, carry and recover from our pain.
O seek that beautiful stream,
O seek that beautiful stream.
Its waters, so free, are flowing for thee,
O seek that beautiful stream.
Thank you so much Carla. It brought back memories of a service of baptism back in Saskatchewan. Two of my cousins were among the 15 candidates and the presiding minister would baptize a few of them, by pouring, and then invite the congregation to sing a verse or two from this hymn, in German of course, before moving on to the next ones. In my mind then, the image of the water of baptism melded into the image of the stream of water in this hymn, and suggested both cleansing and life-giving. Thank you for your work in reminding us of the rich heritage of faith represented in these hymns!
Donna Mack Shenk said:
This is beautiful! Thank you.