Yesterday morning at church, we were singing one of the grand old hymns of the faith.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
The song was keyed low enough that I was singing an alto harmony. I heard a voice in the row behind me joining in. I didn’t have to look back to know who it was. There is a precious elderly saint in our church who, years ago, sang alto in a local Southern Gospel quartet. When I started attending this church, she was on the worship team.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
She had to step down from the worship team when she came down with Alzheimer’s. The brilliance that made her a high school valedictorian has faded away. Yet she still remembers the old hymns, and on this one at least, the alto part.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of grief shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
Then I realized what I was hearing. She has been called to go through the deep waters. Yet she still sings this song.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
She knows a promise. I say “knows”; whether or not her mind remembers, her heart still knows: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
That’s why she can sing:
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
I’ll admit, I cried through the last few verses. I don’t know if I sang a word.
But it was just as well, because it meant that I could just listen to her sing. It was one of those moments that I will never forget—unless, of course I am someday called to walk through those same deep waters. But hearing her sing this song reminds me that should that day come, I have the same promise that was made to her: Nothing can pluck one of Jesus’ sheep out of His Father’s hand.
Not even Alzheimer’s.