Nearer, my God, to Thee

Until I began maternity leave, I worked part-time as an admin assistant for my home church. Typing, filing, organizing, formatting, and editing, may sound like death by paperwork but I was in my element. I couldn’t have been happier. My favourite time of the day was first thing in the morning as I’d begin preparing for office hours. With fingers flying over keys and emails whizzing out of my inbox, I’d open up YouTube and let my little computer fill the air with worship songs.

The musical notes would soak deep into my womb and the boys would respond with leaps and flips. With a belly morphing and bouncing, the three of us spent daily time in joyful praise and adoration of the one who gives life. One of the songs in particular caught my attention and I would play it over and over again, the melody lifting high in praise, my heart soaring alongside:

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

With hands nestled protectively over my expanding belly, I sang this hymn as a prayer for my boys and my family. Draw us nearer, Oh Father, to You.

Over the course of my pregnancy, “Nearer, my God, to Thee” was stuck on almost permanent repeat, looping around and around. There was just something about it. The hymn, written by Sarah Flower Adams, reflects the story of Jacob’s Dream found in Genesis 28. The words stirred deep within me and echoed across my pregnancy as a fervent plea: Oh Father, we want to be nearer to You!

Or, if on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I’ll fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

The day after we lost Landon, my husband and I sat curled up on a narrow hospital bed, clinging to each other with what little strength we had left. Broken and weeping, we came before the Father in worship. Our throats tight with tears, I asked my husband to play “the boys'” song. From the speaker of a little white I-Phone spilled familiar notes, but this time, the prayer was different. Overnight, the hymn had taken on new meaning.

For my husband and I, this song became Landon’s song. We played the hymn at our baby’s funeral and had “Nearer my God to Thee” inscribed on his grave marker. After Landon’s death, I discovered that this hymn had a sixth, and very fitting, verse:

There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be nearer, my God, to Thee.
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

This was my prayer for my son: nearer, ever nearer. A prayer that God answered in an unexpected yet profoundly beautiful way, to bring Landon to the place where he will forever be near to the Father.

nearertothee2This was my prayer for my family: nearer, nearer. And in the midst of a very muddy valley, a valley I never wanted to be in, this too was answered. In our weeping, God gently pulled us into His comforting embrace. He drew us in, closer, tighter, nearer.

The price paid for this prayer wasn’t cheap. A Father willingly gave up His Son: a Son, beaten and bruised, mocked and humiliated, nailed to a cross. A Son who took the penalty of my sin and rose again to defeat death, that I may live. And not only live but experience the profound joy of an intimate relationship with the Father. To be nearer to Him bears a heavy cost.

I never wish to journey along this road again. But even if that is what it takes, my prayer remains the same. Even with mascara dripping from tear soaked eyelashes and a heart feeling as if a piece had literally been broken off, “Still all my song shall be, Nearer, my God, to Thee.”

5 Comments

  1. Karen Sorensen says:

    I cried when I read your message above, Liz. This has always been a hymn that touched me deeply and now when I sing it, I will also be thinking about you and your boys. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

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