My favorite song of all time is Come Thou Fount. This ranking is affirmed and reaffirmed every time I sing it or take it in; it ministers to my soul. The depth that is interwoven into its lyrics always astounds me and I find deeper spiritual truths each time I encounter it. For me, it is the song of my faith and my walk with God. It speaks to who God is, what he has done, and who I am in light of it all. The song contains some really honest lyrics concerning the Christian life such as, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love” or “Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God.” The song has been my prayer to stay rooted and connected to God’s goodness no matter what. It is a request to remember the necessity of abiding in God’s grace daily in order that I might live a life of worship. If I was a better writer, I could write a book on what God has revealed to me about himself, my faith, and the nature of my own heart. Perhaps I will write a series of posts on the song line by line. For now, I will settle to try and convey what I most recently discovered.
As I was leading through this treasure trove of a song this weekend, a few lines of it struck me in a profound way.
Come Thou fount’ of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Really, it was the “tune my heart to sing thy grace” that caught my attention last weekend. What an interesting request. This is an important request and prayer, but a difficult one if you know what it might require. It sounds nice and flowery, but tuning can hurt; a lot. The tuning of our hearts requires constant adjustment and change. As a musician, I know the importance of constantly making sure I am in tune. If my instrument is out of tune, it does not make a beautiful sound. It causes dissonance, confusion, and possibly pain to those listening. It also doesn’t take much to make something out of tune. The temperature/environment can change the pitch. Just merely using your instrument affects the tuning as well (too much bending the strings for a guitar player). And if those things don’t affect the tuning, time will. Just the passing of time makes the strings go flat. So tuning is not a one-time event; it requires intentionality and constant adjustment.
In order for God to tune my stubborn heart to sing of his grace, he must orchestrate moments in my life that remind me of my dependence upon him. God’s grace, his unrequited gift of love and forgiveness that is necessary for life, cannot be properly understood from any other position than a lowly one. My heart cannot sing of his grace from a spirit of self-reliance and independence. Sometimes he must let circumstance or the consequence of my own sin bring me to ruin so that I see the reality of my desperate state and my need for him. Our hearts need tuning. This is not a one-time event; it is regular maintenance that must be attended to. Our hearts get out of tune by the temperature and environments of what is going on around us, or by use and doing as much as we can, or perhaps with just the mere passing of time. Our hearts need tuning, and only God’s hands and ears are capable. Only he knows the exact frequency that we must be tuned to in order to sing his song.
This tuning can often be a painful process. It can feel unloving. It can lead us to dark, scary, and often lonely places. This is a hard thing to ask God to do: tune my heart to sing Thy grace. But, if we truly believe and trust the first line, then the second makes sense. If God really is the fountain and source of blessing, then we can trust as scripture tells us that his way is best and he has all things working together for good (Romans 8:28). God’s “good” is not always what we want, but it is always good and it is always what we need. It is for our good that God brings us low. I have to believe that. I have found in this difficult year (for me personally) that my faith and theology makes the difficult even more difficult sometimes. To believe that God is in control is to believe that this chaos and pain has been permitted, or dare I say, planned. (Please forgive me if this offends you as you are reading a man’s thoughts still in process). Sometimes I feel as C.S. Lewis once said, “Sometimes it is hard not to say, ‘God forgive God.’ (A Grief Observed pg. 28)” Sometimes I wish I could wrestle with God physically as Jacob did. I know I won’t land a single blow, but I’d like to throw them anyways. I must also remember that Jacob got a name change and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. This was for his good and there is no denying that in the over-arching plot. But I am still in the thick of the plot, so I must trust that this is for the good in the overall story as well. From my current vantage point, I can already see that I too will have a limp for the rest of my life after this bout with God. It is true what I said about how my theology makes the difficult more difficult, but it also makes the difficult palatable, and dare I say, hopeful. Without trust in God, his goodness, and the resurrection, all is meaningless and quite grim. Apart from God and the resurrection, our only hope is some empty distraction from the inevitable.
I have already written far more than I planned, so let me get to it. Here is the good news: God is good, and he is faithful and just to forgive. The next line is, “Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.” God has an unending supply of mercy for those in pain and in need. Once he has brought us low, once we are humbled by the truth of our dependency, we encounter his insatiable supply of mercy. His mercy and grace are so overwhelming that they call for the loudest praise you can muster! The only appropriate response to his mercy is a tuned heart singing as loud as it can the song of his grace upon grace. This is how we can move from gloom to joy. If you truly understand the grace of God, and you are rooted in it, your life will be a song of loudest praise. Let me qualify the level of praise a bit more. The line is, “songs of loudest praise” not merely loud praise; therefore, it is the highest decibel you are able to scream at. When was the last time you sang that loud? When was the last time you sang your heart out praising and thanking God for mercy he has shown you? If it’s been a while, maybe you need to pray for a re-tuning of the heart. Maybe life-circumstance has knocked you out of tune, maybe you feel used up and your pitch is off, or maybe the routine of life and passing of time has let the wonder of God go flat in your heart. Request a tuning of the heart from the only outside force that can do so. No instrument has ever been tuned magically or by itself. But be warned: the tuning of your heart may not bring about what you want, but it will bring about what you need.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1