Thursday, June 21, 2012

Be thou my vision

Numbers 12:4-9 (NIV)

At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words:
“When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.
With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
So here’s how this works: On the days I don’t sit down to write with a parenting topic in mind (which is most days), I look at the lectionary for the scripture passages. I usually start with the Gospel selection first (Jesus said lots of pretty deep stuff), then I move to the other New Testament reading (right now we’re moving through Romans) and then the Old Testament selection (we just moved into Numbers). I look briefly at the Psalm numbers but don’t often read them directly because the lectionary tends to be repetitive on Psalms.

On days where nothing jumps out — or when something does sort of jump out but I don’t yet know what to think about it — I head over to The Cyber Hymnal to the Scripture Allusions page, where I can see any and all hymns that cite anything from the day’s readings as inspiration. Most of the time this is an exercise in futility, because despite what I consider a decent knowledge of classic hymns, The Cyber Hymnal lists nearly 9,000 hymns and Gospel songs from a variety of traditions. So finding a hymn I will recognize on any given day is difficult enough, finding one that speaks to me is something of a tall order.

And yet even when I do come across an especially meaningful tune, it’s not always good fodder for written reflection. A good example is “It Is Well With My Soul,” which is a powerful hymn with an incredibly moving back story. But the verse listed as its scriptural allusion is Psalm 146:1 “Praise the Lord, o my soul.” Somehow I haven’t been able to make the leap from those six words to a treatise on “It Is Well.” It hasn’t felt right given the nature of the type of reflection and writing I’ve been doing here.

All of this is the means of establishing direction for today’s post. Verse six of Numbers 12 — “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.” — is the scriptural basis for one of my absolute favorite hymns to sing and to hear, “Be Thou My Vision.” The text of this classic also stands perfectly well on its own as a prayer.

(Fun fact: there is an entire website devoted to this hymn. I have not read it all, but I doubt you can say the same for, I don’t know, “This Is My Father’s World.”)

So while I’m still not sure the passage from Numbers is perfect companion/inspiration to the hymn, and while I’m also not sure how the passage or the hymn directly inform my parenting choices, I am still drawn in completely by the words and music. If I keep this song in my heart, it would be a form of prayer. Every line is a request for God to move in the singer’s life, to take control and let His will dominate. Tonight, at least, it’s hard for me to think of a better message.

The entire hymn, which, per various online sources, is the second English translation (the first was prose, the second was verse) of the original Old Irish poetry, is as follows:
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.

Be Thou my battle shield, sword for my fight,
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight.
Thou my soul's shelter, Thou my high tower.
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

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 Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
So many wonderful thoughts are embedded therein. I can’t imagine how much different my approach to life would be if I truly let God be my vision. I strive to rely on God’s wisdom yet somehow I still make room for my own at the worst moments. When I willingly cede my dignity in the heat of the moment, I am rejecting God as a shelter for my soul. I’m choosing to go it alone despite knowing full well what the right approach would be.

Often times my kids pay the price for this because they’re the ones who eat away at my nerves the same way Pac-Man chomps down pellets. But I’m the adult here, the one who’s supposed to be fully formed — or at least more mature than children — and pretty much every time I choose my own direction I regret it, if not in the moment then soon after. One of these days I may actually learn from my series of mistakes. I’d like to think I’ve actually made some progress over the last few years, but I don’t want to kid myself into believing I have it under control.

I’ll never have it fully under control — not by myself, anyway. That’s the entire point. I need God to be my vision, to be the Lord of my heart. That presence should be my light, and when I ignore it I find myself in darkness of my own doing. It needs to stop for the betterment of everything. And it isn’t easy. But I will keep trying.

A prayer for June 21:

Lord, I come to you a broken and sinful man. You have never left me, yet I have turned from you to pursue my own ideas. In ways large and small I have disappointed you, and in so doing I have failed as a father and a husband. I ask not just your forgiveness, but also for you to keep your voice ringing in my ear, keep your Word imprinted upon my heart and your will in my sight. Be thou my vision, Lord, that I may see to walk in the path you have set before me. Amen.

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