Out of slight embarrassment, do you ever keep some of the little ah-has of life to yourself? For example, we have all probably experienced the surprise and humor of gazing down at the words of a song we have repeated over and over since childhood, only to discover that the words we thought we knew and loved are absolutely WRONG! “What? Oh!” we say to ourselves, looking down at the actual lyrics, “I had no idea! That makes much more sense!” Sunday services are the classic setting for this experience. I remember clearly the day I looked down while singing the song Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel, and belting out “ The fight for sin is real,” and seeing, on the printed page, “The fight ‘gainst sin is real.” As a little girl, early in my experience of “singing along,” I had filled in a place where I couldn’t quite hear the lyrics with a word that made perfect sense to me. Oh, the difference a few words can make!
The Difference a Few Words Can Make
From the time my grandson, Ethan, was just a little guy, he was quite a singer. He sang while he played, while he dressed, as he moved from one activity to another, and especially he sang as he sat with his little legs dangling from the porcelain throne in the bathroom. One day I discovered that it could be both entertaining and instructive to listen to his lyrics as he filled the house with song.
The year Ethan turned five the Primary children learned the hymn, “The Lord is My Light.” I’m sure that the hope of the General Primary Presidency was that each and every child in the Church would learn to sing all the words of this song, and that the message of the song would sink deep into every little heart. “The Lord is my light so why should I fear? By day and by night His presence is near….” What better message could little children or big children take home from church?
One day little Ethan was moving through the morning singing “The Lord is My Light.” The chorus is always the catchiest part of any song, the easiest part to remember. “The Lord is my light. He is my joy and my song. By day and by night, He leads, He leads me along.” Yes, those are the correct words, and that’s the part Ethan was singing over and over again. Ethan’s mom, my daughter Jen, was surely pleased that her five-year-old was able to repeat something from memory miraculously learned during last week’s time spent in Primary.
At one point of the day Ethan was up stairs sitting and singing in that private room of the house, well known for its great acoustics. As his mom was wiping the kitchen counter she tuned in and listened to the words he was actually singing. Just at that moment Ethan sang out a resounding, “By day and by night, He leaves, he leaves me alone.” After a good chuckle she walked upstairs, applauded his singing, and kindly corrected the mistaken words along with the false doctrine.
No matter how good our intentions are as parents and leaders, we never really know what a child is taking in and taking home, do we? So many of the doctrinal misunderstandings we have as adults probably started out innocently. It makes me think about how very young we are when we begin to form some false ideas about God, some misunderstandings that go on for years. These untruths can makes such a difference in how we see Him, in how we imagine His view of us, and in our courage to approach Him and receive the love and direction and power He desires to send our way.
I am amazed at the seemingly harmless ways a false notion of the Divine can begin. No doubt even now in my life, the Lord is trying to clear up some mistaken ideas that stand between the two of us. And it’s humbling to think that as an adult I have perpetuated things about God that are not true. I’ve passed them on to my own children, nieces, and nephews with my words and by my deeds. It can’t be helped, really. We are all in process, parents and children.
The Grand Truth, though, is that the Lord is listening and watching as you and I sing out and act out our innocent misunderstandings about Him. Just this morning I was making my breakfast and doing my regular early hour listen to the scriptures. It was not a chapter I had prayed to find. It was simply “the next” chapter of the Doctrine and Covenants. But in the third verse of Section 32 in the middle of the record of Jesus calling missionaries to go here and there in the 1800s these words leaped off the page and struck my heart. They seemed to speak to me of my own calling in life. “And I myself will go with [you] and be in [your] midst; and I am [your] advocate with the Father, and nothing shall prevail against [you].”
“I myself will go with you!” Now that is stunning!
It’s encouraging to know that the Lord is in the business of correcting anything that stands in the way of my coming unto Him. He watches and waits and invites me to abandon the old “He leaves, He leaves me alone” despairing mentality and to adopt and live by the hopeful Eternal truth that forever and this very day, whether I recognize it or not “He leads, He leads me along.” Oh, the difference a few words can make!