A hymn before home…

The darkness of this world will make you feel like a stranger in a strange land

Tonight I did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I found an old, old hymnal – one from back when I was just a child in church. I sat at the piano and started playing through some of the hymns of my youth. Most of them no one sings anymore, unless they’re surrounded by rocking chairs on a Bill Gaither Homecoming video.

As I sat and played, a wave swept over me that at first I chalked up to nostalgia. Then I began to realize it was something more. I was overcome by a melancholy longing. But not for the past so much, but like the past, a place that no longer exists on this earth. Longing for a home, but a home far away.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to a simpler time and place in my life. I’m starting to understand the old timers and how they clung to traditions. This new world scares me quite a bit – so much of what happens now makes no sense to me.  The hatefulness I see in people grieves me daily. I do my little part to help, but so often I feel like I’m bailing water on the Titanic…with a teaspoon.

The past seemed so much simpler compared to what we’re facing now. The world is going a bit mad, despite what many will tell you to the contrary. Too many of the values of the past are ignored now or out right ridiculed. People are so incredibly selfish, but don’t even feel guilty about it. I’m afraid we’ve forgotten how to feel guilty.

Frankly, I feel lost. Not lost from God – He knows where I am – it’s me who doesn’t!  It’s like wandering through a dark, misty wood, trying to find a path toward an unclear destination. I could just turn around and head back home, but I’m not sure I know the way back to where I came from either. And even if I could find it, God wouldn’t want me to take it.

The upside is that in this brave new world, I’ve grown as a person, and my abilities have blossomed into a ministry I never dreamed of before. The flip side is I don’t know that I’ll ever feel “at home” again.

Right now, I’m a pilgrim. I’m a missionary, far from a home I’ve never seen.

I think it was CS Lewis who talked about how proof of heaven is your soul longs for a place it’s never really been.  I don’t know if he’s right, but I think I finally understand now why so many old timers loved singing those hymns about heaven. From so many of those old songs, I’ve always heard how I shouldn’t feel at home on this earth. “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through…” The idea is that when I came to Christ, I became the citizen of a far away Kingdom. The time I have left on this earth is to be spent doing the work of my King, though I’m doing it in exile.

If all that’s true, then I guess it makes sense I feel lost and lonesome for home. The hymns from hundreds of days spent sitting in the darkly-stained pews of my youth call to me now. Their forlorn cry is like the howl of a wolf roaming through a cold, misty night. I sit and sing them, wishing for a home I know I cannot have yet.

Maybe one day soon, I’ll find my way back home, pushing my way through that “eastern sky”. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t give up the good fight until God says it’s my time. But as soon as He does, I’m ready. I’m so ready to sing those songs again in a place of peaceful obedience.

If you look for me, you’ll find me there – second pew from the front. I always liked to sit down front – didn’t want to miss anything. And I’ll be sitting in my Father’s lap.

“By and by, when the morning comes…”

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3 thoughts on “A hymn before home…

  1. Great piece, Dave!

    I had my own radio show on the Armed Forces Radio Service 1952-1953. In the middle of our hour we would pause and do one of those old hymns you refer to. I would introduce Sgt. Bill Legrande and Bill would beautifully render “Little Brown Church in The Vale.” You were permitted to do such things in the 1950’s.

    I still have a recording that the engineer made when I featured “The Willing Workers.” The group constituted four black gospel singers-soldiers who made meaningful and beautiful music. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,: and “This Train” were among my favorites.

    Ah, the awesome memories,

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts, Dave, but this is the first one I’ve been able to totally, completely, relate to. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You and the family are in my prayers regularly as you continue your journey of service. “So bravely run the race, ’til we see Christ!”

    • Love you, Debbie. So great to hear from you. Stay strong and keep singing. We’ll get there “by and by…”