My youngest daughter and I share a hymn that we both enjoy. A hymn that makes us smile and give each other the ‘thumbs-up’ when we see it on the list at church, which is not all that often. The hymn begins with a question and asks us … ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life’? It concludes with the powerfully joyous affirmation that …
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.
Over the past few years, I’m not so sure that my anchor has held with the surety that the hymn suggests. Being ‘grounded firm and deep in the saviour’s love’ was more hope than certainty, and seemed remote, far-off. So, my anchor rather bumped along the bottom of the seabed searching for something to hang onto, while the billows rolled around above it.
At times, the absolute lack of anchor set me free, well to be honest, never ‘totally’. It was, in part, an exciting if somewhat concerning place to be. At other times, when the anchor strained to secure me to something substantial and hold me firm, I all but hacked at every chain and link possible to regain my autonomy and wander, without guilt, across all the oceans of the earth. And yet, it tenaciously caught onto something and held me quietly but persistently, not allowing me to drift too far, detaining me in some beguiling spaces and places. It maintained its hold just long enough to secure me a place at the Advent Sunday service at St Margaret’s church, just below Ilkley moor, and spend a beautiful Christmas Eve at St Saviours church in Eastbourne, decorated in Pre-Raphaelite style with angels, archangels and all the companies of heaven. It held fast at Exeter Cathedral on Good Friday and maintained its hold in a small parish church in the village of Gulval in Cornwall on Easter Sunday morning.
And so, my anchor continues to drift and catch, catch and drift, alternately annoying/satisfying/frustrating/pleasing. I’ve grown to accept that, for the moment, this is good enough and that I can’t, nor do I wish to, cut myself free from its whispering presence. Instead I have grown used to its enduring but gentle tug.
So, in answer to the question set by this splendid hymn … Yes, I believe, perhaps more honestly, I am beginning to understand that my anchor, indefinable as it is, will and does hold, in or outside of the storms of life. Equally, it doesn’t drown me by pulling me under but allows me to falter, lapse, take control, make decisions and sail my own course and that is good.
My daughter and I will continue to smile when we see this hymn, singing it perhaps with greater thought, deeper insight and more delight. Always hoping to remain proximal rather than distal to the rock, which can and does move with you.
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