Thursday, August 01, 2019

Spiritual Journey First Thursday: Change

A few years ago I got this fortune in a fortune cookie: "Change is not merely necessary to life. It is life."
Everything changes. Sometimes we're happy about the changes, and other times we're not, and either way, we're often wrong; that is, the changes we think will make us happy sometimes don't, and the ones we dread can turn out to be positive in the long run. I often find myself resisting change, seeing it as inherently a bad thing, and then asking myself why I'm reacting that way. Maybe it will be a change for the better, I tell myself.

One of the oldest teachings about God is immutability, constancy, not changing. While throughout the Bible we see God responding to human beings by changing plans and thoughts as a result of prayer, God's fundamental character doesn't change; we can rely on that.

"Change and decay in all around I see; oh Thou who changest not, abide with me."

Back in 2009 (on Good Friday), I wrote a post about the hymn that's the source of that line. 

The text of this hymn was written by Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847). Whenever I hear it, I think of evening chapels at boarding school. We would always sing it then, and those words, "fast falls the eventide," were then simply literal for me. I wanted God to be with me through the night, with its darkness and scary sounds. These days I think about it more metaphorically, and focus on the second stanza: "Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me."

It seems appropriate for Good Friday, but with strong echoes of Easter.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

One of the changes I fear most is losing people I love, either to death or just to moving on in one way or another. God's abiding is a precious thing, the fact that we can trust that in spite of others leaving us, God never will.

Margaret is rounding up our posts for August's Spiritual Journey First Thursday. She has some beautiful reflections on change.


Margaret Simon said...

I love the words to "Abide with me". Such a comfort in times of change. Loss is a change I have a hard time with, especially when the friend is young. That is when I have to live through gratitude.

Irene Latham said...

I, too, find comfort in this thought of a higher power being ever-present, seeing us through life's inevitable losses. Thank you, Ruth. xo

Donna Smith said...

Abide with Me is a favorite hymn. Beautiful post today.

Ramona said...

The words of this hymn bring such comfort and peace. And these words from your post are keepers: "God's abiding is a precious thing," Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the words to this poignant hymn. I was not familiar with verses 4 and 5.