Thursday, May 1, 2014

When to Hide, and How

A reflection on a Charles Wesley song I saw for the first time this morning

I am not one to hide. Hiding seems backward, cowardly, retreating. I want to advance, engage, and break through. Yet, I daily pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I read Psalms in which courageous David calls for cover and lauds Yahweh for hiding him from his foes “who are too powerful for me.”

What’s this hiding thing all about? What place does it have in my spiritual formation and practice of Jesus’ presence in an active life? If hiding is valid and helpful—even essential to being fully human—how shall I understand and practice it?

I am thinking about hiding because, just this morning, I read through a Charles Wesley song I had not before seen or sung. Without being melodramatic, Wesley’s lyrics seem both straightforwardly descriptive and instructive.

Here are the four stanzas of “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose”:

Thou hidden source of calm repose,
thou all-sufficient love divine,
my help and refuge from my foes,
secure I am if thou art mine;
and lo! from sin and grief and shame
I hide me, Jesus, in thy name.

Thy mighty name salvation is,
and keeps my happy soul above,
comfort it brings, and power and peace,
and joy and everlasting love;
to me with thy dear name are given
pardon and holiness and heaven. 

Jesus, my all in all thou art,
my rest in toil, my ease in pain,
the healing of my broken heart,
in war my peace, in loss my gain,
my smile beneath the tyrant's frown,
in shame my glory and my crown. 

In want my plentiful supply,
in weakness my almighty power,
in bonds my perfect liberty,
my light in Satan's darkest hour, 
in grief my joy unspeakable,
my life in death, my heaven in hell.

As I read these lines a few times, I recognize a few things about life, about grace, and about myself.

I recognize that life is difficult, sometimes unbearably so. This isn’t surprising, but what is surprising is how naturally and readily Wesley names circumstances we occasionally face and situations others endure over lifetimes.

I recognize that in the difficulties of life—as specific and overwhelming and sabotaging as they can be—there is grace sufficient. Wesley juxtaposes his confidence in the life, passion and resurrection of Jesus with each difficulty. Because of his assurance that Jesus is an abiding presence—God-with-us, if you will—Wesley is able to envision Jesus as a “hidden source” of help in every difficulty.

I recognize that I frequently fail to rely on this “hidden source” and, instead, first seek relief in others, or in work or play or expert counsel. I flail about and unnecessarily inflict my discomfort with my pain on people around me. In doing so, I both bypass the primary source of help and seed my difficulties in others’ lives. 

I recognize that life with its difficulties calls for both retreat and advance, hiding and engaging, gathering strength and utilizing it. Hiding does not mean always hiding. It means making a conscious, inward-upward turn to grace as a first step in difficulties. It means tuning in and cultivating an awareness of the sacred presence of God-with-us and being still and open to how grace may guide.

I recognize that as much as this is an invitation to hide amid difficulties, it is more an invitation to live continuously in and with and from the grace of God-with-us. Through Wesley’s pen flows the expression of a heart and life that has come to know and rely on the presence and full resources of Jesus in good times and bad. This, it seems to me, makes hiding less of an exception in difficulties and more the underpinning constant in the journey of life.

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Dad. I appreciate your words.


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