Heavenly Father sends us opportunities that nearly take our breath away, and
require that we gather everything we are, or desire to be — everything we have
accomplished or are praying for — and place it all in his hands — then walk, as we
never have before, by faith.
This is what
happened to me — 25 years ago to the month — when I wrote the text for the
hymn, "Lord, I Would Follow Thee."
I had been
writing for various church programs for more than 10 years, including song lyrics
for several seminary projects. The "new hymn book" was a slow, unwieldy
possibility that had been dragging along for five years or so. Michael Moody,
the gentle, insightful man who for many years headed Church Music, would make a
point of inviting me to submit texts for this new hymnal; indeed, every time
our paths crossed, when I was working on one project or another, he would
encourage me to do so.
I would go home and
two very unusual things would happen, consistently so. One: I would attempt to
write, but nothing of any merit
whatsoever would emerge. Two: I would then promptly forget, the whole idea simply slipping out of my mind.
perhaps even a year later, the process would repeat itself. Michael would
encourage me. I would feel a natural desire to "have a song in the hymnbook,"
and what I've described would happen all over again.
Remarkably, I did not contact any of the
young composers with whom I had written songs in the past, nor did they contact
me. Looking back — and only looking back, and seeing with an amazed clarity — it
was as if a curtain shrouded our minds and our natural desires to be involved
in this work; it was obviously not the proper time, nor the proper pattern.
Then came a
Friday afternoon when I received a call from Michael Moody: the hymn book was
nearly completed. My heart sank! What
madness this, that I did not even make an attempt! The committee had
received more than 6,000 submissions, but there were still holes, still
truths which needed attention. Would I submit a song on the Savior, and trying
to be like him? Rough, sketchy
instructions. And he needed the lyrics for a Monday morning meeting.
Then did the Spirit graciously, mercifully come to my aid. I had my daughter's birthday,
stake conference; no time to sequester myself and shut out the world. I had to
draw forth the best within me here and now — and I could do that only by humbling
myself, through prayer and faith, before the Lord.
I had all of my
life to draw upon; the gentleness of my early childhood years in Salt Lake, the
painful challenges of my teen years, our family living "in exile" in Illinois
with an excommunicated step-father, and the many blessings of later years as
Heavenly Father guided and sustained me in my efforts to be a good wife and
mother, and in the work which he had
sanctioned, of becoming a writer in Zion!
I also had my
experience with Sarah's death.
sister Lora's fifth child had been born with Down Syndrome. Sarah was
delicate and beautiful, with dark black hair and deep, deep eyes. Her condition
was critical because she had a heart defect which would require surgery if she
was to live, but she had to become
old enough and strong enough to survive the operation.
She did not make
it, but died gently, almost imperceptibly, in her mother's arms.
The day following
Sarah's death I went with my sister to shop for some things she needed,
including a little locket for the baby to be buried with. As we walked through
the mall, my heart ached. I longed to run ahead and say to each sales clerk we
were approaching, "I know we just look like two young women out shopping, but her baby died yesterday. Please be kind to
Some were kind,
and some weren't. But the experience had a lasting impact upon me. For years
afterward I would watch people — look into the face of a man or woman who was
being rude or impatient on the highway, at a store counter or waiting in a line.
I would think: How do I know what they
are going through? Maybe they found out they have cancer, or lost their job. Or
perhaps someone they love very much has just died. What is happening
inside, what burdens they are struggling to bear, do not show in their faces — any
more than it had shown in my sister's and mine.
How often our
Father blesses us beyond our present worthiness; almost beyond our capacity. I
worked most of that Saturday night, and the words flowed through and from me. IComment on this story
reviewed and re-worked a bit on the Sabbath. When I read the lyrics to Michael
Moody over the phone Sunday night, as he had requested, there was a stillness
on the other side of the line, then his quiet, kindly voice said, I knew you were the one.
If he knew, and
Heavenly Father knew, I still marvel. I
also understand full well where my work and responsibility lie: to grow to be worthy of the gift, to perfect
my own ability to live the gentle counsel and make reality of the heart's
plea — "Lord, I would follow Thee."