When it got close to wintertime in South Dakota, Pa Ingalls used to string a rope from the house to the barn, and he’d keep his hand on it as he walked back and forth to do his chores. Out on the plains, a blizzard could strike with only a second’s notice, and if it caught him unprepared, he could easily become disoriented and get lost in the swirling wind and snow. But with his hand on the rope, he knew he could find his way to safety, one step at a time, even in the midst of the wildest storm.
Although you know I’m not above gratuitous Little House references, this one is actually quite profound. Great storms of emotion have a way of spinning us around and leaving us without a sense of which way is up. In these moments, often our own words fail us, and we’re unable even to process our own feelings, much less talk any sense to them. In these moments, having a memory full of hymns and psalms can be a rope to cling to.
I’ve been speechless more than usual over the past year and a half, as we buried a baby, as I tried to parent a toddler, as I despaired after reading tragic stories in the news, as I carried Jem for an anxious nine months. In those moments, I’ve been thankful for words of hymns that give words to my suffering and to my hope.
Nancy Guthrie writes, “In times of distress we can give into endless introspection and self-pity and stay right where we are…or we can bring our distress before God and let him flood our lives with living water…[the words of the Psalms] are the songs we want impressed on our minds, believing that they will shape and instruct our feelings…Doubt leads to trust; anger toward God turns to admiration for God; sadness gives way to joy.” (The Wisdom of God)
For at least the past year, I’ve made a point to keep hymns playing in the house. And in the past two weeks, as we’ve faced yet another unexpected storm, those hymns have been the words that have risen in my thoughts and formed my prayers when my mind feels too overwhelmed and numb to speak for itself. They remind my heart of the truths that are greater than my feelings of fear and sadness.
So now for a little public service announcement and an example of providential timing: many of my current favorite hymns to listen to are performed by the band Page CXVI, and for the month of March, they’re giving away all of their albums for free! Here’s the press release:
“PageCXVI and The Autumn Film are still celebrating 7 years of music by giving away their entire discography from both their projects Page CXVI and The Autumn Film*. Noisetrade has partnered with them for our March Jubilee Giveaway! They are thrilled and honored to work with an outstanding team of people who care deeply about music. If you have not already downloaded their 74 song, 11 album, 2 band giveaway please visit their giveaway on Noisetrade now!
*They had to leave out a few songs due to copyright/royalty issues, but are all available on iTunes.”
What are you waiting for? Grab some rope.
PS- to add some variety to your hymn playlists, I’d also point you in the direction of Indelible Grace, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Sandra McCracken, Matthew Smith, and Jadon Lavik. Their music is (mostly) not free, but definitely worth a download!