“For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows (Psalm 22:24,25).”
t’s funny sometimes what you get out of a church service. Many times the inspiration comes from something else than the pastor’ s sermon.
We were late on Sunday, and barely got there in time for the pastor’s talk. It was a fine one, but it didn’t speak to me personally.
However, the closing hymn did, especially the last stanza:
“Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store;
take my self, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.”
The hymn is “Take My Life, and Let It Be” by Frances Havergal. This morning I set out to find out a little bit about Ms. Havergal, what made her tick. I wanted to know what inspired her to write this lyric.
Frances Havergal was known for her scholastic achievements, surely. She was a linguist and a poet. However, in a brief bio, this was not what she is remembered for.
“She does not occupy, and did not claim for herself, a prominent place as a poet, but by her distinct individuality she carved out a niche which she alone could fill. Simply and sweetly she sang the love of God, and His way of salvation. To this end, and for this object, her whole life and all her powers were consecrated. She lives and speaks in every line of her poetry. Her poems are permeated with the fragrance of her passionate love of Jesus (Wholesome Words).”
Frances Havergal was not always this inspired. As a young girl, she had a secret trouble: she thought she ought to love God, but she didn’t, writes biographer Lizzie Alldridge. Then she understood as a teen the forgivness and love of Christ.
Ms. Havergal apparently not only wrote of her love for Christ, she lived it out. According to her, the inspiration for the hymn “Take My Life and Let it Be” came from the following incident:
“I went for a little visit of five days (to Areley House). There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted, but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer, ‘Lord, give me all in this house!’ And He just did. Before I left the house every one had got a blessing. The last night of my visit after I had retired, the governess asked me to go to the two daughters. They were crying…; then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced; it was nearly midnight. I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration; and these little couplets formed themselves, and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with ‘Ever, Only, ALL for Thee!'”
Frances Havergal, through her individual relationship with God, blessed others. She found her niche in her short-lived time on Planet Earth.
Jethro, the priest of Midian, was Moses’s father-in-law. There were probably not a lot of people that Moses respected. He was surrounded by naysayers and whiners, but he obviously held Jethro in high esteem.
When Jethro came to see Moses after the Exodus, Moses treated him like royalty. He bowed to him and brought all the leaders of Israel to eat with him (Exodus 18:7,12).
Before this visit, it appears Jethro was a polytheist. He had a lot of gods in his pantheon. However, after hearing about the deliverance of Moses and Israel by the God of the universe, he threw his hat in the ring for the Lord (Exodus 18:9-12).
Jethro had a big impact on Moses and Israel. He saw them wearing themselves out because Moses had no help in administration. When Jethro advised Moses to create a bureacracy to handle all the concerns of the Israelite nation, Moses listened. He respected Jethro. As a result, Moses was able to serve God and the people optimally (Exodus 18:13-26).
Like Frances Haverfal, Jethro had his niche in the Lord’s service. He made a major contribution through the use of his own gifts of adminstration.
I believe God has given us all a particular niche, a ministry. In this place we are source of comfort to others who don’t have the gifts He has given us.
When chaos breaks out where we are, God wants us to use our gifts to make things better. Rudyard Kipling pictured a person like this in his famous poem.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!
As a Christian man, I take Kipling’s words to heart. It takes courage to keep from going crazy yourself when things are going nuts around you. It is difficult to be a good man, or woman.
I take Havergal’s words to heart, also. It has taken me a lot longer than her to reach the point where I can say “I love God”. I’m in the beginning stages of a sacred romance with the Lord.
I do realize I love God and I want to have the same impact in my world that Frances Havergal had in hers. This is why her hymn spoke to me. I also want to be a person of virtue and calmness in the midst of adversity, the same kind of man Kipling wrote about.
I want to carve out out a niche similar to that of Frances Havergal. I seem to be following the same path she did, though. For her, it came slowly, too. Allridge writes of her journey in finding a love relationship with God:
“To Frances Ridley Havergal was given not only to feel in a most wonderful degree that ecstatic love to Christ and entire consecration to Him, which are such marked and blessed characteristics of much of the Christian life of the present day, but an almost unique power of so expressing that love that wherever an English book can be read, there hearts have felt the glow of her devotion. In her case the love came slowly, and so did the power of pouring it out. Her alabaster box of precious ointment was long in filling; but when it was filled, with what rapture did she break it at the blessed feet of her King!”
To have the same kind of impact Frances Havergal had, I need to first understand the love God has for me, as she did and Jethro did. Yet, much of the time, I feel like the Psalmist, who wrote,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent (Psalm 22:1,2).”
The same Psalmist, though, understood who God was, and praised Him for His character to others. He knew he could run to God for solace and deliverance, that the God of love was not some distant Poobah, but near and ready to help, and in spades (Psalm 22:3-5; 11,19).
It’s all about trust and love for God. “Ever, only all for thee”, Havergal wrote. To get to that point, Havergal had to go through a crisis of the soul. She also experienced some tough times.
Frances Havergal’s mother died when she was young. She also was sickly, and died at the age of 43. She saw her beloved father pass away.
Frances Havergal carved out a niche for herself in life which gave glory to God and comforted other people. It seems God also did some cutting. At least with Him, we can know that He does it with care and precision and produces a wonderful result.