Nearer My God To Thee

Today was Mother’s day. I got to spend basically the whole day with my wife and kids doing what the wife wanted to do, which was to have lunch on the lawn outside our church, go to Fredrick Meijer Gardens and out for ice cream. While we were together, other than the moments where I had to get after my kids, I felt an overwhelming sense of fullness. I have a beautiful wife who is a great mother, I have 3 healthy, beautiful and hilarious kids, and I am provided for and blessed beyond my worth by a God who loves me more than I deserve. It kept taking me back to the longing. That sensation of being stabbed repeatedly in the chest because everything is so great, but there’s still just not that completeness. Something is missing. I know instantly what it is. It’s that this time can’t last forever. It’s that our time is limited. It’s that tomorrow I am going to wake up and go to work, and be back in the routine.

After we came home today I went out to mow the lawn and I was listening to some music. A song came on that I decided to be put on repeat until further notice. I haven’t stopped listening to it yet today. It’s on repeat right now. The song is “Nearer My God To Thee”. Fernando Ortega happens to be the artist on this version, and its only piano. No vocals, no other instruments. Something about the way he plays it captures the ache perfectly for me. The song completely engulfs all that longing and desire I have for things to be made right and complete. I decided to look up the lyrics because I’m not sure I had ever sung the song or heard the lyrics other than when I heard it played on the movie Titanic, which yes I watched in the movie theater on more than one occasion when it came out. I am not going to admit to how many times I saw it at the movie theater, but just know it was more than 2. Anyway, here are a few lyrics…

—–
Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
yet in my dreams I’d be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

There let the way appear, steps unto heaven;
all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;
angels to beckon me
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

Then, with my waking thoughts bright with thy praise,
out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
so by my woes to be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

Or if, on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
—–

The first verse seems to reference Christ, and the rest seems to reference a story about Jacob from Genesis 28. Not sure of it but that’s how it appears when you just read it. However, when I let the lyrics sink into me, they seem to mean much more.

The second verse captures the restlessness for me of life. The feeling of my wandering heart straying away so much from a God who loves me. Yet every once in a while in my dreams or in watching my kids play, or just waking up next to my wife, I feel that nearness. I sense God in that moment. Then the stab of ache when I know the time can’t last. But for a second I feel the nearness of God.

The third verse helps me to feel the nearness of God in the blessings I have been given. Again, watching my kids and playing with them, being with my wife on a perfect day, being in front of people to sing and praise the God I love and believe in, or being able to just sing/write/play music and do what I feel God made me to do. He is beckoning and calling to me in all this.

The fourth verse is a killer for me. All these great things that happen and the perfect moments I get with my family, or the highs the come from singing and leading worship or doing a show and being able to share my heart with people, all these mountain top moments will sometimes only seem to show me that they are temporary. Then the ache hits. The depression hits me. I have a choice. I can sit and wallow in the absence of that moment, or I can take that moment and realize that God is in it. That He gave me that moment so I’d know He is there, and want more of Him. “So by my woes to be, nearer my God to thee.”

All that is to say, I welcome the ache now. That pain is the welcome sign of the presence of God in my life. I am grateful for that. Happy Mother’s day to all the mothers. Especially the mother of my children. I love you.