Budding personalities have been on my mind a lot lately. At 3, my daughter has some things in life that she cares deeply about: horses, books, dancing, one-on-one time with her favorite people, and hymns. At almost 14 months, my son's emerging toddler independence is helping us see more of who he is. His faves? Slides, cars, dogs, books, guitar and musical instruments, one-on-one time with his favorite people, and water. I'm eagerly looking forward to 15-24 months with him, because that is the age at which A. began memorizing and singing hymns with us.
"How sweet the..."
As parents who are Christ-followers, we like for worship to take on culturally-relevant forms... beyond 'traditional' and 'contemporary'. But we are particularly pleased that A. loves memorizing hymns because she questions us to know what they mean. That lets us shape part of 'how she thinks about God', called theology. A. accurately knows what individual words mean, like "sin, forgiveness, incarnation, pure, heaven, consecrated" and more, from hymns. Probably more importantly, we are challenged to explain what the lyrics mean theologically, and what that looks like in her life. This makes it so much easier to talk with my non-Christian friends... because I've explained it to a 3 year old!
Hymns form a profound intersection for her every day and night. (A. never asks about K-Love or top CCM song lyrics). We cannot think our way into doing. Our behavior is shaped by what we love. When she loves God, loves thinking deeply about God, and loves caring for others like God, then we watch eagerly to see how those primary loves will shape her. Say it another way, behavior reveals what we love. An interview with Jamie Smith in CT talks about how Christian formation involves shaping our loves, not just thinking our way to God.
Here's one that A. requests:
Take my life, O Lord, renew,
Consecrate my heart to you;
Take my moments and my days;
Let them sing your ceaseless praise.
Take my hands and let them do
Works that show my love for you;
Take my feet and lead their way,
Never let them go astray.
Take my voice and let me sing
Praises to my Savior King,
Take my lips and deep them true,
Filled with messages from you.
Take my silver and my gold,
All is yours a thousand fold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as you shall choose.
Make my will your holy shrine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is your own;
It shall be your royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At your feet its treasure store;
Take my self, Lord, let me be
Yours alone eternally.
And here's one that I sing every night to E.:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Hymns like these are sung globally by people who don't know the 'latest' hit on our American CCM charts. As someone who lived abroad and attended church in another language, I've experienced worship as an outsider. There's also a reality of growing up in the suburbs and the West: I've never experienced being cut off from other believers, like those who are right now in jail for their faith in Jesus. Being abroad without a phone, computer, iPod, and simply having just a Bible and my local congregation brought out what I really love, and what's really been memorized and hidden in my heart. How many Christians have only Christmas hymns and repetitive praise song refrains to cling to? American Christian kids will grow up in a post-Christian culture that actively opposes Jesus, and they may be marginalized and hated. Have you ever stopped to listen during worship, and hear what's going on from the perspective of outsiders or the persecuted? The future American church will soon be one skinny cow, and could learn a lot from today's underground churches.
I want my kids, and the kids we know, to grow up with scripture and weighty song lyrics hidden in their hearts.
How will we explain when challenged?
How will we hope when persecuted?
How will we behave, if we don't first know God and love what he loves?