|History of Hymn
“O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s marriage. His whole family had went to the wedding and had left him alone. And he writes of something which had happened to him that caused immense mental anguish. There is a story of how years before, he had been engaged until his fiancé learned that he was going blind, and there was nothing the doctors could do, and she told him that she could not go through life with a blind man. He went blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one who had taken care of him all these years, but now she is gone. He had been a brilliant student, some say that if he hadn’t went blind he could have been the leader of the church of Scotland in his day. He had written a learned work on German theology and then wrote “The Growth of The Spirit of Christianity.” Louis Benson says this was a brilliant book but with some major mistakes in it. When some critics pointed out the mistakes and charged him with being an inaccurate student he was heartbroken. One of his friends wrote, “When he saw that for the purposes of scholarship his blindness was a fatal hindrance, he withdrew from the field – not without pangs, but finally.” So he turned to the pastoral ministry, and the Lord has richly blessed him, finally bringing him to a church where he regularly preached to over 1500 people each week. But he was only able to do this because of the care of his sister and now she was married and gone. Who will care for him, a blind man? Not only that, but his sister’s marriage brought fresh reminder of his own heartbreak, over his fiancé’s refusal to “go through life with a blind man.” It is the midst of this circumstance and intense sadness that the Lord gives him this hymn – written he says in 5 minutes!
Some might be redundant/irrelevant…
- In one sentence state your kingdom mandate for your church community?
- Are you a missional community or a community that does some missional activities?
- Has your congregation been growing vertically in their affection and adoration for God? How?
- Has your congregation been growing in spiritual maturity? How?
- Has your congregation been training/releasing servant leaders? How?
- How is your church’s prayer life?
- Is your church a family or an event, in terms of relational maturity?
- Has your congregation seen evidences of the supernatural work of God’s power?
- What is your church’s greatest hinderance/frustration/hurdle right now?
- What would your town/city/area miss if your church disappeared of the spiritual map of the place?
A few weeks ago I had to fill in a form – similar to a personal evaluation form – for my denominations. I struggled with the questions both in essence as well as form. Not anyone’s fault. Could be just me….
I had written this down and very kindly the respective board asked my input on a more suitable set of questions. I will write the personal ones today and the church community ones in the next few days. Here they are:
- This are some thoughts/reflections…
- Some might be redundant/irrelevant…
- I am sure that some can be phrased better…
- They are numerous…
- They require time/reflection.prayer/examination….that often leaders don’t have or make room for.
- What has God been teaching you in the last year?
- How has Scripture been affecting you in the last year?
- Have you wanted to quit? Do you want to quit? Why/why not
- What has been your personal ‘high’ & ‘low’ in ministry this year?
- What role does prayer play in your weekly schedule?
- Have you been a leader in your family first? How?
- Have you set an example to your local community? How?
- In what ways has the Holy Spirit found you more available for faith/supernatural acts this year?
- How do you see the ‘flock’ God has entrusted you to shepherd?
- Are there any sinful attitudes/habits that you have been convicted & restored in the last year?
Thinking of the things that my academic vocational education failed to equip me with, I realised that arguably suffering is the best pastoral care education one can get. The world we live in is awash with pain and brokenness, and the church is no exception. Being part of a community you cannot escape this harsh reality.
You start in ministry with a neat set of prescribed pieces of advice a la Job’s friends – that are often insensitive and inaccurate. As the years go by, you swing the other way, where the best encouragement you can offer is a deep heartfelt sigh, a shed tear and well…just your silence.
Yet God has a way of equipping you that is both un-welcomed yet cherished. He allows you to sometimes experience glimpses of what others are going through. That’s the only way you truly begin to ‘get it’. And it’s only a glimpse, a beginning really.
The temptation is to avoid the hard places, to skip the course, to try a shortcut and anaesthetise the pain. And it’s understandable. Because it hurts, and sometimes it hurts like hell.
In the last few months I felt as if God, pulled back an invisible curtain and offered me an insight into caring for people that I had not seen before. I wanted to learn from books and conversations – akin to a trainee surgeon that observes the surgery from the safe distance, behind the glass. Yet God said, step in and get into the bloody mess of pain, suffering, despair and hopelessness. And still, this was nothing compared to the devastating pain my friends Richard and Esther went through in the last few months (see www.fullhands.blogspot.co.uk).
I have a very long way to go, and I fear the personal pain. Yet, as Paul was observing, it’s only when we are comforted in the midst of trials that we learn how to comfort others. Jesus himself was so radical in his incarnational way of identifying with human suffering, shame and temptations – that he went beyond the ‘extra mile’. All this so that no one could ever say, ‘God would never understand’…