I was there to hear your borning cry

As I write this, I am getting ready to travel to the U.S. for my mother’s 90th birthday. She is doing well, she lives independently, and (like the Queen of England) she still drives, though not as much as in the past, mainly for her weekly hair appointment.

I am thankful, of course, for my mother’s good health and sharp mind. Her own mother lived to be 95, which seemed remarkable at the time, as it does now. When we gather as a family next week, we plan to give thanks to God for good health and sharp minds, but also for the faith our mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother passed along to all of us, the faith that sustains her in this chapter of her life and the faith that sustains me as well.

Life, I have come to see, is a series of chapters and transitions. I am old enough now – though thankfully not yet as old as my mom! – to see the truth in this. We move through life in stages, some good and pleasant, others not quite as good and certainly not as pleasant. But – there is good news in this, I promise! – even in the difficult times, there is always the sense that there is more to come, another stage, another chapter, another surprise.

When I am in a difficult chapter of my life (and there have been a few along the way), I have learned to remember that there is still more to look forward to, more that God has in mind for me, “a future and a hope,” as Jeremiah puts it. God said to his people through the prophet, “I know the plans I have for you.” I wish I knew too, but it is enough, I have come to see, that God knows.

Frankly, I wish I had learned this lesson earlier in my life, but maybe this is something that only age can teach us. In any case, I give thanks for this insight at this (later) stage of my life.

There is one other lesson that I have learned that is important to share with you, and that is: God is with us through each stage of life, not only the good, but the unpleasant as well.

The following expresses this truth as well as any hymn I have ever sung. A previous church I served used to sing this hymn every time we baptized a baby (and to fully appreciate what the hymn means to say, one should at least be open the idea of infant baptism).

As my friend (and worship scholar) C. Michael Hawn says about this hymn, “Many hymns address God from the human perspective, but few address humanity from God’s point of view. The spirit of ‘Borning Cry’ is one of a God who loved us from the beginning of time and continues to love us throughout the seasons of our life.”

I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.

I was there when you were but a child,
with a faith to suit you well;
In a blaze of light you wandered off
to find where demons dwell.

When you heard the wonder of the Word
I was there to cheer you on;
You were raised to praise the living Lord,
to whom you now belong.

If you find someone to share your time
and you join your hearts as one,
I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme
from dusk ’till rising sun.

In the middle ages of your life,
not too old, no longer young,
I’ll be there to guide you through the night,
complete what I’ve begun.

When the evening gently closes in,
and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been
with just one more surprise.

I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.

The author and composer, John Carl Ylvisaker, is 80 years old this year. He is undoubtedly thinking of that “one more surprise” God has in mind for him.

(Note: I wrote something like this for my church’s monthly newsletter, the Update.)

About Doug

I’ve been a writer ever since I won second prize in a fifth grade “prose and poetry” contest. I’m also a Presbyterian pastor, and I’ve served churches in New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, and Florida. Today I am pastor of the International Protestant Church of Zürich, Switzerland.

13 Responses to I was there to hear your borning cry

  1. Susan May May 16, 2017 at 4:59 am #

    Yes, to all of this. Thanks.

    And thank you for the hymn. It’s unfamiliar to me; the message is precious and encouraging.

    • Doug May 18, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

      Not a great hymn, but the words do something to the emotions!

  2. Lisa Blake May 16, 2017 at 7:25 am #

    I love this hymn and the reminder that God’s plans and love never leave us. I remember holding my babies and singing this song, after they were baptized. Tears were coming down my face as I knew I wouldn’t always be with them, but God would. I am grateful. Thank you Doug.

    • Doug May 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

      I remember, Lisa, and am very thankful for those years.

  3. Jane Price May 16, 2017 at 7:26 am #

    We had a baptism at our new church on Sunday, and I was longing to sing Borning Cry again. Can’t get through it without tears. Very warm memories of First Pres Wheaton!

    • Doug May 18, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

      Me too, Jane. Will be back in June for a wedding. First time in 14 years! Can’t wait.

    • Doug May 18, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

      Me too!

  4. Karen Owen May 16, 2017 at 7:56 am #

    What a lovely message and hymn. Thanks for sharing. Our Lord is our constant and that makes all the difference. Prayers for your safe travels.

    • Doug May 18, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

      Thank you for the warm words, Karen.

  5. Jeffrey Edwards May 16, 2017 at 9:01 am #

    Timely reminder…thanks

  6. Sally McClintock-Snyder May 17, 2017 at 7:27 pm #

    Your writings warm my heart. Thank you.
    Sally McClintock-Snyder

    • Doug May 18, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

      That keeps me going, Sally!

  7. Rev Andrew Gifford May 20, 2017 at 11:11 am #

    Thanks Doug, just read this while on vacation with now grown Ben and Seth whom you baptized and the congregation shared in this hymn.

    Peace Andy Gifford

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