I’ve mentioned before, here on Classic State of Mind, that music has been an integral part of my journey for my entire life. My parents loved to sing gospel music when I was growing up, and when we took family trips in the car, singing church songs helped make the monotonous miles of travel more bearable. We didn’t sing in unison. We sang four-part harmony as we drove down the road. My dad was a bass. My mom and my sister were both altos. My brother and I took turns singing made-up tenor lines, or the melody or lead part in whatever song we happened to be doing. Car windows open. The noise of the wind blowing our songs all over the landscape as we drove along.
And because those kinds of spontaneous sing-alongs were a regular part of our family life, we all learned the lyrics to dozens of hymns and gospel songs, along with the parts we were supposed to be singing. Having those songs — especially the lyrics — engrained in the very fiber of my soul has served as a rich repository of truth, encouragement, inspiration, and faith throughout my life. Even now, after all those years, I can recall lyrics to songs I grew up with.
Songs like, ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.’ Those lyrics are etched in my memory. I could recite them, yes, and even sing the tenor line of that song without any prompting at all.
“What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms,
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.”
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning, on the everlasting arms.”
Those lyrics were written in 1887 by a musician, teacher and publisher named Anthony Showalter. He had received letters from two of his former students, informing him that their wives had died. When he responded them with letters of consolation, he sent along some of the lyrics to a song he had written, ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.’ I feel pretty confident that when he wrote those lyrics, he had no idea how famous his simple song would become. It’s been recorded by famous recording artists. It’s been used as the background of major motion pictures like “True Grit.” And, of course, it been sung by countless millions believers sitting in churches on Sunday mornings, or by budding gospel singers flying down freeways with car windows open.
I don’t know how many times I’ve sung “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” in my lifetime. I suppose the really critical question isn’t how many times I’ve sung it, but rather, how many days I’ve lived it. How would my life be different, I wonder, if I paid attention to the lyrics of the songs that have formed and fashioned my faith? The essence of my faith is not about some part I’m making up while I’m flying through life. In fact, it’s not about flying at all. It’s about walking, one step at a time, leaning, in trust and confidence, ‘safe and secure from all alarms.’
Sometimes, I get those old songs going around in my head and I can’t get them out. Then again, I’m not sure I want to get them out. My challenge isn’t ‘getting them out of my head,’ but rather, ‘getting them into my lifestyle and journey.’ There’s no better way to live than leaning on the everlasting arms. No need to take my word for it.
God said the same thing in His book. Deut. 33:27 says …
“The eternal God is your refuge,
and his everlasting arms are under you.”
Go ahead and lean. God’s got you.