A Wonderful Savior Is Jesus My Lord
Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock That shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of his love, And covers me there with his hand.
This summer my brother drove across the Rockies,
taking time to enjoy the scenery. He says the sight of
a deep cleft in a huge rock reminded him of this song
written by Fanny Crosby.
Having seen at least the Front Range-—-and awesome nature film footage—I could appreciate his description. And then I stopped short, realizing the song had been written by a woman who had been blind from infancy. What was her understanding of being hidden in the cleft of a rock?
Actually, we know virtually nothing about the circumstances of the writing of these lyrics. Crosby churned out some nine thousand songs, many commissioned to fit a particular tune, many deservedly forgotten.
But this one remains in hymnals and in hearts. Providing assurance ... even building bridges over deep ravines.
Robert McIntyre of Marion, Indiana, tells of pastoring a church as a young man. His denomination valued the voice of the laity—to the point that once a year a congregation voted by ballot: do we want to retain or release the current pastor? Majority ruled—-though many thin-skinned pastors resigned, disgraced by just a hint of discontent.
Having pastored the slowly growing church for several years, Robert received the disconcerting news that he'd received a "call to stay"-—-but by a slim margin. Thin-skinned or not, he says, "a vote like that is not a good base for continuing constructive ministry." But "as I considered my response, I learned what had happened." The chair of the committee overseeing the vote had canvassed the membership, urging everyone to vote for change. Her reason? In Robert's words: "'Our pastor has too much education.We need someone like —-—-. Whereupon she would name a minister with virtually the same education as mine."
Robert sought the counsel of his district supervisor, who advised him not to resign. "That kind of activity should not be permitted to succeed."
Easy for him to say.
But Robert girded up his loins and stayed another year.
That summer, he admits, "I could not help but feel a tension toward the sister who had attempted, the coup."
Then, ... he led the congregation as they sang a song that had no obvious connection to the political discord. Nothing about church unity or forgiveness or being truehearted. Just the refreshing words of "He Hideth My Soul."
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.
He hideth my soul in the clef of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of his love,
And covers me there with his hand.
But the Spirit used the song—this particular verse—to build the bridge that spanned the gulf between pastor and parishioner.
Buttressed by and enfolded in the love of God, Robert felt compelled "to step down from the platform and shake hands with members of the congregation, including 'the sister' in the second pew. (This was before the days of hugging in church.) Tears flowed freely. The tension (at least on my part) was gone."
Robert had several options in this difficult time. He could have carried gruff resentment on his shoulder. He could have ducked behind cars and into closets to avoid awkward encounters. But gracious community was restored—not as Robert vindicated himself or as he ran away but as he allowed himself to seek the refreshing shelter of the Savior, who gives strength, who upholds those who turn to him.
There was no human engineering behind this transformation of heart. Just God at work as someone was willing to let him.
I expect that's the way it was with Fanny Crosby—writing a song about a mountain crag when she'd never seen one. God at work, whispering to a heart.
In Unspoken Sermons George Macdonald poses a parishioner's question that might be Robert's or Fannys or yours: "But how can God bring this about in me?"
Macdonalds response speaks still: "Let him do it, and perhaps you will know how."
Lord, sometimes I'm aware only of the things I should do for you. Today open my eyes to things I've never seen before. Give me new insight regarding the innumerable things you do for me—-the ways you crown my moments with blessing. Being my Savior. Taking my burdens away. Holding me up. Giving me strength. Transforming my heart.
From the book "Spiritual Moments with the Great Hymns" by Evelyn Bence