Many years ago, I attempted song writing. None was worthy of publishing and most have mercifully faded from memory. However, there are two I remember (at least the titles). One was a soulful ballad about commitment, titled: “If I Don’t Leave, Then I Guess I’ll Stay”. The other was a heart-tugging song about unrequited love: “I Did a Belly-Buster in the Swimming Pool of Love”. (Charlene Darling of the old “Andy Griffith Show” would have certainly lamented “Don’t play that one, Pa, it always makes me cry!”)
Several years after those, when our son, Daniel, was still a baby, I made this one up to sing as I tried to get him to sleep (sung to any baby melody you choose):
“All the little gophers in gopher town, they all get together when the sun goes down.
They build a little fire, and dance round and round, all the little gophers in go..pher..town!”
Still probably not worthy of publishing, but I was pleased with the imagery, and Daniel seemed to enjoy it.
It’s difficult to write a good song, especially considering you need to have lyrics and an appropriate melody to go with them. It seems impossible to write a great one. That is one of the reasons so many hymns, old and new, are amazing. The words touch our hearts with their praise for our great and gracious God, pictures of unshakeable faith, and prayers for God’s continuing help. Their accompanying music, whether soaring and broad or simple and quiet, fits perfectly to complement the message.
The background of some of these songs makes them even more amazing: From the well known story of H. G. Spafford writing “It Is Well” on an ocean liner after it passed the spot where his four daughters had recently drowned, to the lesser known circumstances behind Thomas A. Dorsey writing “Precious Lord” after hearing his wife had died in childbirth and the baby had not survived, or “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” being written by Louisa Stead after her husband drowned trying to save a young boy.
These stories reveal the unshakeable faith of the composers. However, above that, especially when considered with the lyrics of the songs themselves, they reveal the love, mercy, and grace of our God.
All the little gophers in gopher town don’t really get together and dance around the fire after sundown (at least I don’t think they do). But, the Lord’s love, mercy and grace is real. It’s shown clearly when we hear that whether we’re in peace like a river, or in sorrows like a stormy sea, God makes us able to say: “It is well with my soul”; or, we cry out to the Lord to take our hand because we’re tired, weary and worn; or we affirm that it truly is sweet to trust in Jesus and know He is with us to the end. And, when God takes the song and reinforces that reality in our heart at just the right moment and for just the right reason, it can make us cry.