Friday, October 28, 2011

Lead, Kindly Light

O send out thy light and thy truth:
let them lead me;

let them bring me unto thy holy hill,
and to thy tabernacles.

I am constantly frustrated by the feeling that I don't enough time to do the things that I find rewarding--scripture study, historical research and writing, genealogy, blogging, etc. Sometimes I wonder why God gave me a restless mind and an eagerness to strive and grow, but seemingly not a fair opportunity to use those gifts. Perhaps I should be more patient, but is that the whole answer? No indeed, for the Lord admonishes: "[S]eek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31) It's true that in this context the Lord was expressly talking about taking no thought for what to eat or drink, or what to wear. But perhaps the lesson applies also to higher personal goals and interests, notwithstanding their worthiness, upon which we can become so fixated as to blind us from other plans that God may have for us. Maybe the trick is to seek "first the kingdom of God"--study scripture, pray unceasingly, be honest and generous with others, do the right thing and serve wherever one can--and happiness and fulfillment will come in ways that God wills and that serve His loving plans for us, even if we can't see them just yet. Knowing our hearts, it may be that He will bless us with those goodly things we desire, as well: "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." (Psalms 37:4) Or if not, perhaps He will lead us to glory in ways even more wonderful, that are simply beyond our imagination. In either case, we know we have a special and unique purpose in this life, which we will discover by and by if only we follow His ways and be alert every moment to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

This lesson is exquisitely captured in the words of John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890), English scholar, Anglican churchman, and Roman Catholic Cardinal:
God has created me to Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work.

I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it - if I do but keep his Commandments.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.

He does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me - still He knows what He is about.
This was not all Cardinal Newman had to say on the subject, however, for in 1833 he also penned the words to one of the most beautiful hymns ever written, Lead, Kindly Light. The hymn relates the experience of one who once was determined to pursue his own goals in his own way, who "loved to choose and see my path," who "loved the garish day," and whose will was ruled by pride. Now, the writer prays God to "Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me." The hymn was written in frustration while the young Newman was convalescing from a serious illness in Italy, and was unable to get home to England where his work awaited him. As originally written it had only three verses; a fourth was added later by Edward H. Bickersteth, Jr.
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

Today, Lead, Kindly Light is usually sung to the tune Lux Benigna, composed by John Bacchus Dykes in 1865 (this is my favorite). However, it is also often sung to the tune Sandon, composed by Charles H. Purday in 1857.

It is reported that Lead, Kindly Light was sung in the pitch darkness of a mine by a small group of men and boys awaiting rescue during Great Britain's worst mining disaster in 1909, and by a soloist on the RMS Titanic during a hymn-singing gathering shortly before the ocean liner struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912.

Watch and listen to the two beautiful videos of Lead, Kindly Light below. The first is to the traditional tune Lux Benigna, by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The next presentation is sung to the alternative tune Sandon, by the Wells Cathedral Choir.

I do believe this is the answer I've been seeking: simply to let God lead; follow His light first, rather than my own; and happiness and fulfillment will be mine at last, however and whenever God wills that to happen. Father Knows Best!

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful backstory to a lovely hymn! Of the two versions, I think I like 'Sandon' the best. It really speaks volumes. And it's easier to sing. The video of the English countryside is awesome!