The Songs We Sing, and What They Say

Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

Drew Bratcher recalls:

Among the first songs I remember hearing are the hymns my great-grandmother sang: “I’ll Fly Away,” “Do Lord,” “I Am Bound for the Promised Land.” Doubtless I had heard other hymns before these, and still others with greater frequency, but to this day when I think of hymns, it is my great-grandmother who comes to mind.

He asks, “What did hymns mean to my great-grandmother? How did they figure into her hard life? Was it nostalgia that endeared them to her memory? Was singing them just one of many mindless ways to while away the time?”

He answers:

It wasn’t mainly aesthetics, sentimentality, or wonder for wonder’s sake, that made hymns about heaven so dear to her. It was the hope they articulated, the future they described. It was their promise of a better life than the one she deserved or had endured. It was their assurance of a final judgment and of an eternal rest, one that she believed awaited her—as it awaited all those who’d placed their trust in Christ—on, as one of her favorite hymns put it, “the farther shore.”

Imagine nearing the end of a long life. Think of children or grandchildren or nieces or nephews or neighbors who happen to have shared your orbit.

Will they have heard a song escape your lips? Is there an anthem that will have carried you along? Is there any song that will have had enough staying power, enough longevity, to carry with it some cultural resonance and meaning, a song someone might recall as being among the first songs they can ever recall hearing?

And what will those songs say? What will they say about you? What will they convey about what captured your imagination, your hope?

Something good, I hope.