On discovering the fifth hymn

Well, the fifth hymn for me to learn this Lent made itself known yesterday. This time I discovered it by flipping through the hymnal.  How unoriginal!  Why did I stop here at number 782?  In fact, the main reason is a bit too intuitive and personal to post on a public blog.  So I’ll offer up second reason by saying that this was a choral piece I sang in high school, which is true.  I’ve always loved the harmony, and when I sing it now with my laptop on my knee and the hymnal propped beside me, I can feel the whole Blacksburg high school chorus around me, breathing, shifting weight on risers, eyes fixed on the director as the lower parts, altos and myself included, extend and linger together on the final words, “…but like a child at home.”  An arrangement by Gordon Jacobs, I think.

“My Shepherd, you supply my need”  has had its text updated, so now I stumble over my memory a bit as I relearn it.  The hymn text, written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), is a paraphrase of the familiar Psalm 23.  The last two lines grabbed my attention.  In fact, I’ll admit I like these lines better than the last lines of the good psalm itself:

Here would I find a settled rest while others go and come;
no more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home. 

Surely we have all had times when we are uncertain that we belong, when we have not fit into whatever was expected.  Then, somehow, chalk it up to grace, the word that we are God’s child trumps the lostness that threatens.  The search is over without our having to look.  Our home address is announced without our moving anywhere.  The embrace is God’s, and it’s powerful, and everything about us fits into place.

And so does learning this hymn this week.