[Hymn-writing] is praying… for I never seem to write even a verse by myself, and [I] feel like a little child writing: you know a child would look up at every sentence and say, ‘And what shall I say next.’
That is how Frances Havergal described her hymn-writing process, and I think it’s why her hymns are so beautiful.
Today’s hymn is Take My Life and Let it Be, and it is one of my favorite hymn stories. Frances Havergal had served the Lord for years, but at 36, she felt like something was missing in her faith life. In 1873 she received a little book called, “All for Jesus,”, which stressed the importance of welcoming Christ the King into every corner of your life, and soon afterwards, on Advent Sunday of 1873, she made a fresh and complete consecration of herself to Christ. She described it: “Yes, it was on [that day] I first saw clearly the blessedness of true consecration. I saw it as a flash of electric light, and what you see you can never un-see. There must be full surrender before there can be full blessedness.”
Not long after that day, she went out of town and stayed in a house with several other people for a few days. In her words: “There were ten persons in the house; some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. He [God] gave me the prayer, ‘Lord, give me all in this house!’ and He just did. Before I left the house every one had got a blessing. The last night of my visit I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in renewal of my consecration, and those little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with ‘Ever, only, ALL for Thee.’” (McCutchan 1942, 269)
For the rest of her life, Frances sung this hymn every December 2nd, on the anniversary of her consecration.
As she meditated over this text in years that followed, it continued to change her life. One day, she was praying over the words “Take my voice and let me sing / always, only, for my King,” and decided to give up singing in secular concerts, though she frequently sang professionally as a soloist and with orchestras. From that moment on, she devoted her beautiful voice to songs of the Lord alone.
Another time, she was considering the lines, “Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold,” and realized that she did not need all that she had accumulated. So, she donated all of her jewelry to the Church Missionary Society, writing to a friend, “I retain only a brooch for daily wear, which is a memorial to my dear parents… Evelyn, I had no idea I had such a jeweler’s shop; nearly fifty articles are being packed off. I don’t think I need to tell you I never packed a box with such pleasure.”
It is so easy for us to relegate God to Sunday mornings, and yet he calls us to re-consecrate ourselves to Him every single day, and he wants to be present in every single corner of our lives. Will we let him? Let’s sing this beautiful hymn as a consecration of ourselves, a surrender to God of all that we have and all that we are.
Sources: Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, Young; Then Sings My Soul, Morgan.