ABIDE WITH ME:
AN ANSWER TO A SCEPTIC
When searching for hymns I came across "Six Articles from past issues of the Teacher Development, Sig Newsletter" where there is an article written by you : Jeremy Harmer, "Abide with me" ** (see note below) in which you ask a question: "When researching the issue of change for the 'Changing Teacher Behaviour' conference in Saffron Walden in November 1998, I suddenly remembered that old church hymn 'Abide with me' written by Henry Francis Lyte, which has the following couplet addressed to a benevolent deity:
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me
How strange that in these lines 'change' is equated with decay and that one of the deity's chief attributes is that he (sic) does not change. Yet in training, especially in-service training, we frequently attempt to act as agents of change, seeing the process as positive and life-enhancing. What is going on?"
Dear Jeremy what is going on is quite simple: change belongs to the temporal sphere, and anything that is subject to time is necessarily subject to change and decay.
God lies outside the temporal sphere (thank God for that), and, belonging to eternity, knows of no change or decay. This is the greatness of the believer, the one who believes not in any impersonal "benevolent deity" as you put it but in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Him, with Him and through Him that we, too, participate right now in that same unchanging life that knows of no decay or change because outside of time and therefore everlasting.
I realise Jeremy that you find this difficult to understand and I suggest that it is because you have had no personal experience of the Lord. This is borne out by the way you express yourself, you not only speak impersonally of a "benevolent deity" but also because you seem to fail to appreciate the use of the third person singular "He" ("he (sic)"), used of God. Presumably you see God as an "it", to use Martin Buber's concept (Martin Buber, I and Thou).
How sad, how life destroying, how limited is this one dimensional existence! How full of life is the existence of the true believer: "I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10); "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).
My only hope, Jeremy, to use the words of the hymn, is that when the darkness of your heart deepens, "The darkness deepens", when there is no source of comfort in your life "When other helpers fail and comforts flee", when earthly, temporal joys and glory leave you: "Earths joys grow dim, its glories pass away", when you are in need of healing, when you are without a guide and support, when you are at death's door like Henry Francis Lyte when he wrote this hymn, my only hope is that death has no sting and the grave no victory. I hope, dear Jeremy, when you reach this stage as we all shall reach, then I hope and pray that you, too, will triumph, "I triumph still". I hope and pray that you, too, will hold the cross to your fading eyes (both physical and spiritual) and picture the one who died for you and realise that the things of life are fading away "earths vain shadows flee", then you, too, Jeremy will say "In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me".
Yours sincerely in the Lord,
So waiting, I have won from you the end:
God's presence in each element.
Note: The URL of this site was http://web.jet.es/bazkat/jh.htm. It is no longer available if anyone knows where the article is now to be found I would appreciate the information. Jeremy Harmer has never replied to our comments.