I love old hymns.
In fact, you could call it a mild obsession. It hasn’t always been that way. Growing up in a little white church in South Alabama, the Baptist Hymnal became tired and worn after years of hearing the same songs each week. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I came to appreciate the beauty held within the dark green hymnal that I clutched in my hands every Sunday.
I moved away from small town Alabama and into the big city where the church congregation worshipped underneath the dim glow of a projector screen. We always had the latest worship songs and the best musicians to play them. I thought I had discovered heaven. After a little while, however, I ran into the same problems that I had with the hymns. The words became tired clichés instead of gut-wrenching truth.
I remember visiting home after a few months and looking forward to pulling that used hymnal out of the pew. It felt comfortable in my hands. As I sang the words to the hymns, I felt a sense of newness to the words on my lips. And that’s when I fell in love with hymns.
It’s so easy to let my faith turn into religious monotony—with hymns, with worship, with sermons, even with communion. That night at my little Alabama church we had the Lord’s Supper (that’s still what we call it there). We sang an old hymn before we drank our grape juice—“Power in the Blood.” I’d sung it a thousand times, but at that moment the words echoed truth in my life.
The day before, I had lost a friend who was not saved. I agonized over the loss and wondered why I had never really told him about Jesus. I came up with plenty of excuses: I wouldn’t know what to say; I didn’t have all the answers, bad timing …but it all came down to two things: fear and complacency—those two horrible evils that control so much of my life. When I turn down pretty much any challenge that comes my way, I do so out of fear or out of complacency. I disguise them as other things of course. Fear is really just caution and responsibility, complacency is peace and comfort, but that night during communion, I called them out for what they really are.
As the words resounded through our modest sanctuary, I stared down into my little cup of grape juice and wiped the tears away from my eyes. It was then that I began to recognize what the phrase “power in the blood” truly meant.
It means that I can be weak but that I can still bravely stare all of my fears in the face. It means that when I feel the calling to go overseas and minister to the broken-hearted and downtrodden and leave the comforts of my first-world home, I do not have to be afraid. I hold the power of strength. Or when I can’t come up with the right words to say to tell someone just how much Jesus loves them, I do not have to panic. I hold the power of wisdom.
When I am faced with someone who sees no way out, who has lost someone, who has been broken, I do not have to search frantically to comfort them. I hold the power of hope. When I look at my husband-to-be and worry that I can never love him the way he deserves to be loved, I do not have to fear. I hold the power to love.
You see, Christ has already taken hold of all these things for me. By His great love for us He has given us freedom that is ours for the taking. I do not have to provide hope or wisdom or comfort. It is already there waiting. My calling is to point others toward what Christ has already generously provided for them.
It’s not just a cliché pulled from the pages of a hymnal; it’s not just religion, and it’s not just some clever line to put at the end of this story. There truly is power in the blood.