As we begin Lent, William Cowper’s hymn ‘O for a closer walk with God’ has been much on my mind. Now I know that Cowper suffered bouts of insanity and periods of depression and some of that depression and doubt are reflected in his hymns, including this one.
Yet I find myself in sympathy with much of what he writes in this hymn.
‘Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?’ he asks. And I can echo that.
As time goes on it is to be expected that youthful fervency matures (fades?) whether that be applied to romantic love, political views or spiritual intensity. I am not sure whether or not it is inevitable but it is certainly common.
But along with moving beyond the over simplistic certainties and callow fervour I wonder if we do not also (too often?) lose something of the core of our faith, ditch committed discipleship and settle for a bland milk-and-water type of Christian following (of the type I once ridiculed in the respectable church-going middle class environment in which I was raised).
Or perhaps what I am really saying is that this is part of my perception of myself and my story.
Part of the journey of this Lent may be to ask searching questions of myself as to why I feel that this has occurred and what I can do about it.
‘The dearest idol I have known,
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from thy throne,
and worship only thee.’
Hmmm… could I really say/sing that with sincerity?