A Hymn for Jem

A lovely tradition that I have adopted from Noel Piper is choosing a hymn to be a “theme song” for each child.  It’s a song to be sung at bedtime that represents something unique about each child: the circumstances of family around the time of his or her birth, the significance of his or her name, or particular hopes and prayers of the parent for that child.

Abby’s hymn is “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” As weary first-time parents, it seemed appropriate and soul-nourishing to end each day reflecting on God’s provision, and reminding ourselves of the promise of “bright hope for tomorrow.”

We sang “Be Still My Soul” at Sam’s memorial service, and that song has represented our firstborn son to me ever since.  It’s a hopeful and confident comfort for a weary soul that “thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

I’ve chosen “God of Grace and God of Glory” to be Jem’s hymn.  Each time I sing it, it becomes a more fervent prayer for Jem’s future:

God of grace and God of glory,
On thy people pour thy power.
Crown thine ancient church’s story;
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.

Lo, the hosts of evil ’round us
Scorn thy Christ, assail his ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, 
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

We intentionally named Jem after that prophet who spoke God’s truth to a vain, indifferent, and even hostile culture.  The news that has unfolded in our own country and across the world since his birth has further impressed upon me that he’ll grow up in currents that run in direct opposition to the direction I hope he’ll travel.  Virtues of purity, faith, and righteousness (to name a few) are becoming increasingly counter-cultural.  We pray that Jem will not fear the world, but that God would give him wisdom and courage to live according to higher convictions.

Cure thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness:
Rich in things but poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.

The American Christian soul is more vulnerable to vain distractions than it is to external opposition.  I see how Stephen and I struggle as adults to fight against the mindlessness of constant iPhone checking, TV watching, political tracking, text-messaging, status posting.  How much more do I fear for my children who will grow up with no experience apart from our screen-obsessed culture!  I don’t want them to have thin souls and feeble minds that can’t grasp the deeper, more beautiful delights of a kingdom not of this world.

Set our feet on lofty places,
Gird our lives that they may be
Armored with all Christ-like graces
In the fight to set men free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
That we fail not man nor Thee,
That we fail not man nor Thee.

I hope that Jem comes to the end of his life with his faith intact and strong.  But his work is not only defensive.  I pray that he is a voice for truth and justice in his world, and that many come to know Christ as a result of his life.  I love the oxymoron of being armored with grace.  That gentle language is unexpected in the midst of militant language, but it illuminates the truth that battles for souls are won with winsomeness and peace, not in offensive full-frontal attacks.

Save us from weak resignation
To the evils we deplore.
Let the search for Thy salvation
Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Serving Thee Whom we adore,
Serving Thee Whom we adore.

For Jem and for all of us: Amen, amen, and amen!

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3 responses to “A Hymn for Jem

  1. Lovely! I especially like the last verse, as well as the repeated line, “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage.” I don’t think we can ever get enough of those.

  2. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

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