So without further ado, let me turn it over to Heidi.
It is nearing midnight, back in the day when I was three or four years old and living with my family in a tiny apartment. My parents are still up, catching some quiet time alone together before turning in for the night. Would this evening be different? No, the scene replays itself as I roll out of bed and toddle over to my mom. "I can't sleep,” I complain for the third time that night. She gives my father an apologetic glance, and then gently leads me back to bed, kneeling beside it as I snuggle under the covers. "Blessed assurance" she sings, "Jesus is mine..." At the closing words, I plead for another song, promising to remain in bed until morning. I try hard to drift off as the words wash over me: "There is a place of comfort sweet, near to the heart of God..."
Fast-forward the years to when I was seven or eight. Now we are missionaries in Africa, working in an area so remote we fly in by helicopter. As I happily traverse the beauteous landscape, I spot my mother in the hammock shaded by cashew trees, her hymnbook in hand. Without hesitation I run over to the sanctuary and nestle myself between her arms. "Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony, lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary." Many hymns I did not know, but I would follow along as best I could. There was no accompaniment except the wind in the trees and the occasional hawk's cry, as mother and child sang the truths echoed throughout the generations by saints of old. "Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the world Thy hands have made.... then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art!" The rolling hills surrounding us seemed to stand in magnificent agreement.
Then at 9 years old I suffered what is thought to have been Dengue Fever. Even though beforehand I had been down with several bouts of Malaria, this was the first time I pondered death as my joints turned weak and my fever continued through the days. As Mom entered the sickroom I tearfully explained my fears. She set me on her lap and we rocked back in forth in time to the melody of her song: "Be still, my soul...the hour is hastening on, when we shall be forever with the Lord". I was then comforted and no longer feared the possibility of death, though it would be years before I could hear the hymn without choking up.
We moved back to the states, and for a while I didn’t sing hymns with my mom again. But every once in a while I would walk by her room and hear the strains of her voice "Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here..." and it would bring a smile to my lips. When I had a quiet moment, I would steal up a tree in our backyard, hymnal firmly grasped between my teeth, and then perch high above the rooftops to sing the familiar phrases: "Living, He loved me, dying He saved me, buried He carried my sins far away. Rising, He justifies freely forever. One day He's coming -- oh, glorious day!" I felt as if I could reach right up to heaven, so enraptured was I declaring truths in the heights. I would often stretch my eyes to the horizon and wonder at His coming.
Now I follow her tradition of singing hymns by myself; there need be no accompaniment, just a voice lifted in praise. Though I am rarely able to reside among the nature I so enjoy, I’m still blown away by the beauty of my Lord as words echo the tune of my heart. "What wondrous love is this, oh, my soul, oh my soul>? What wondrous love is this, oh, my soul?" Through the sufferings of my illness, and the storms of trials surrounding it, hymns remind me the ground I stand on will not falter: "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word." As I carry on a struggle to withstand the whelming tide, I declare, "When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."
And for the lingering moments in the stillness of night when sleep eludes me, the great cloud of witnesses observe a lone child of God softly repeating her bedtime hymn: "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine..."
Many thanks to Heidi for sharing! As a note, C. J. Mahaney gave a great message on "The Troubled Soul: God's Word and Our Feelings" that I highly recommend. If you are interested in listening to that message just follow this link and look under the archived messages from New Attitude 2008.