Andy and I were late to church Sunday morning, and we slipped in to the front row of the balcony, which in our church means that we were directly over the pastors’ heads. We came in at the very beginning of a hymn and when we got to the seat, there was no hymnal. I knew the hymn but I don’t memorize songs well, so I shoved my hands in my pockets, began to sing and hoped that I would remember them all. As I sang, the words came slowly, one by one, in all their depth and beauty.
I looked down on the platform and there was a young man, rocked back on his heels, with his eyes squinted shut, his head swinging from side to side as he sang those words from the bottom of his gut. I had learned that week that he was an ex-con, who had given up drugs for Christ. I looked into the rest of the congregation and saw many people that I don’t know – that I will never know – with pains and joys that I can never comprehend – all singing. There was my husband next to me, who I know carries many burdens, singing. The tears came to my eyes as I felt the blessing of that intangible, unsought fellowship. Jesus blesses us with not just his friendship, but the friendship of the others that we are united to through our shared love. Hallelujah!
And so I sang, and the words washed over me as balm to my soul.
Jesus, what a friend for sinners, Jesus, lover of my soul
friends may fail me, foes assail me, he, my Savior, makes me whole
hallelujah, what a Savior! hallelujah, what a friend!
saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.
Jesus, what a strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in Him.
tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, he my strength, my victory wins
Jesus, what a help in sorrow, while the billows o’er me roll
even when my heart is breaking, he my comfort helps my soul…
Jesus, I do now receive him! more than all in him I find!
he has granted me forgiveness, I am his and he is mine
hallelujah! what a Savior! hallelujah! what a friend!
You know the words. You think they’re beautiful and lovely and comforting. But do they sink into your soul?