The soundtrack from the 2010 movie "True Grit" includes a song called "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." I haven't seen the movie yet, and haven't heard the song much since childhood, but evidently its message is ingrained as deeply as the blood vessels carrying the gift of life through my veins.
I found this out while attending a writers conference recently. Because it is a Christian conference, they incorporate times of worship singing and prayer. Because they are writers, they choose the wordy old hymns, sung to an upbeat tempo. A good choice for people who love words and who are coming from many varied locales and backgrounds. I happily joined in.
When "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was sung, I was immediately transported back to age seven.
It's 1966 and I'm sitting with the other kids in the front row at the Amaranth Sunday School Mission. My big brother has been hospitalized due to a serious accident with a horse, resulting in a head injury. He lies in a coma at Winnipeg Children's Hospital two hours away. Friends and family are praying for him and for us. At seven, I am far from understanding the seriousness of the situation. I have been spending a lot of time at my cousins' house and that makes me happy. Mom and Dad are pretty preoccupied, and that makes me sad. But what happens next will take 40 years to fully penetrate my heart with its implications.
My father and mother stand up in front of the congregation and sing a duet. They do not know whether their 12-year old son will live or die, but they sing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." And they mean it.
Fast forward to 1995. My husband has been in a horrible farm accident and is about to have his right arm amputated. My friend Melanie tells the story of greeting me in the emergency waiting room with a hug. She says I looked her in the eyes and said, "for this, we have Jesus."
Although it didn't appear to faze me as a seven-year-old, it would seem my parents taught their children, by example and by song, where one leans when one is hurting and afraid. A lesson to be treasured.
Where do you lean?
"What have I to dread, what have I to fear?
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms." -- Elisha Albright Hoffman, 1887