March 2013


Believing Early

When I was a child I believed that God created everything because my parents told me. Many of the things I believed early in life were the things that my parents told me because they would never lie to me. If they had told me the sun was blue I would have believed it because they told the truth. This phenomenon found itself illustrated vividly after my mother had retired from the public school classroom. She began baby-sitting for some friends’ young son. He in turn as he developed skills began to refer to her as “Momma Potter.” It was a natural progression for one so young–he had his Momma at home and, while she was at work, he had his “Momma Potter.”

One evening on the drive home the little boy began singing an old children’s song–it soon became apparent that he had changed the words a ‘smidge. Let’s listen in for just a couple of bars: “Jesus loves me, this I know. Momma Potter told me so.” (It’s okay to smile and giggle, he was about three years old at the time.)

What really hits me about this little anecdote is that I was the same in those developmental years. “God made the world. Momma said and so it must be.”

Belief Tested

Not too many years into my school-boy career I began to learn that other people’s parents had not shared with them the truth that I knew: God created the world. As a matter of fact I learned that there was an entirely different theory of existence being bandied about. The world came into being through some cosmic explosion when two opposing atoms collided in the vast waste of outer space and suddenly there was an atmosphere conducive to the development of life through a process called evolution.

I never struggled with this theory except to blindly shout with the religious right that it was just a lie (I was probably somewhere between the 5th and 9th grade when all of this was going on). I had read Genesis 1:1 where I learned that “In the beginning God created . . .” This meshed with what I’d learned early from my parents, so I could go with it.

Then came a science teacher. He was a member of the church where my dad served as pastor, a firm man of the Christian faith, and one who cared deeply about the students under his tutelage. One day the subject came up–perhaps as the lesson turned to theories of world origins in which evolution was offered as an option. Along with other young east Texas creationists I protested the thought, to which this wise teacher said (without espousing one theory over another), “Perhaps these men are not saying that God did NOT create the earth, but maybe trying to explain HOW He did it.”

I’ll not get into the truth or error of his statement, but get to the point: I came to a conclusion that day, “God created the world because the Bible said it. And questions about how that happened are best left up to smarter men than me.”

Belief Solidified

I have (in my old age–just ask my children they will confirm that I am extremely old) finally come to one conclusion that has outstripped all my earlier reliance on parents and teachers. It stems not from the idea that I can think for myself since that would eventually lead to headaches and distemper because I would (as we all do from time to time) be pondering one of the great imponderables. No, the foundation upon which I rest today is one called Faith. I believe what I believe even when believing it seems incongruous. It is not faith in concrete ideology nor in whimsical religiosity, but deep-seated faith that one arrives at only through the tests of time. And what has my faith led me to concerning our world? Simply this:

God made the world because God made the world.

Harriet B. Stowe (1812-1896)

Also found in Inspiring Hymns, Zondervan, Grand Rapids (1968 ed.) © 1951, #7; Favorite Hymns of Praise, Tabernacle, Chicago (1969 ed.) © 1967, #11.

The Hymn

  1. +^Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
    When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
    Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
    Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
  2. +^Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
    The solemn hush of nature newly born;
    Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
    In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.
  3. As in the dawning o’er the waveless ocean
    The image of the morning star doth rest,
    So in the stillness Thou beholdest only
    Thine image in the waters of my breast.
  4. +Still, still with Thee, as to each newborn morning,
    A fresh and solemn splendor still is given,
    So does this blessèd consciousness, awaking,
    Breathe each day nearness unto Thee and Heaven.
  5. +^When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
    Its closing eye looks up to Thee in prayer;
    Sweet the repose beneath the wings o’ershading,
    But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.
  6. +^So shall it be at last, in that bright morning,
    When the soul waketh and life’s shadows flee;
    O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
    Shall rise the glorious thought, I am with Thee.

(Hymn words accessed at CyberHymnal) Stanzas included in our study hymnal are indicated with bold print. +Inspiring Hymns, ^Favorite Hymns.

Scriptural Connection

Psalm 139 is a song about God’s ever-presence with His children. In today’s hymn, we have a more recent telling of that same assurance.

What does it mean?

From the same pen that gave us the anti-slavery treatise Uncle Tom’s Cabin, we find this hymn of God’s presence. This is a hymn of comfort to the troubled soul. Stowe reminds us that those who know God will find Him with them from the early morning as the birds awaken with the dawn until the last rays touch the earth at the close of day.

The imagery used teaches us that the comforting presence of Almighty is felt until the shadows of our life close in around us. She includes language that holds the assurance of a new day that follows for those who are with God.

This is a lovely hymn that is designed to bring comfort to the disheartened, peace to the troubled, and joy to the sad of heart. Worshipers are reminded that the source of that comfort is the ever-noticeable presence of the Almighty God. From moment to moment, He says, “I am with Thee.”

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.