“…in the rustling grass I hear him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.”
Maltbie D. Babcock, This Is My Father’s World, 1901
It’s funny how things get connected when you stop long enough to think about them. Yesterday was one of those Thornton Wilder, Our Town kind of days. The weather was spectacularly beautiful, Marion went to a graveside funeral for a childhood friend who died of cancer, and I replaced the radiator in her minivan.
The radiator was a mail-order replacement that I gave her as a Christmas gift (lucky her—I’m just sayin’). Between work and family commitments and waiting for the weather to be just right for the job, it took me four months to get to it. While wrenching in the driveway, I was listening to music, and got into a bunch of songs by Chicago. Between the gorgeous weather and thinking about Marion’s childhood friend and the kind of life they lived growing up in small-town Williamsburg, when Old Days played, I found myself daydreaming about Wilder’s Our Town. It’s a beautifully crafted, melancholy play about the ebb and flow of life in small-town America. Everyone would love to live in Wilder’s fictional Grover’s Corners, and be part of that Pulitzer-Prize-winning community.
But the play ends with a fatalistic dialogue about life beyond the grave. “There are the stars—doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven’t settled the matter yet, but they seem to think there are no living beings up there. Just chalk…or fire.” That kind of melancholy makes me wonder what kind of ‘scholars’ Thorton Wilder trusted.
Somewhere in my childhood, long ago and far away, the words to Maltbie D. Babcock’s pastoral hymn This Is My Father’s World got engraved in my soul.
This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world, he shines in all that’s fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!
So what happened to Marion’s friend? That depends upon whom she trusted. Me? Thankfully, I have plenty of reasons to appreciate the beautiful world and wonderful family and friends all around me (and how that all came into being). Not everyone does. Got it. But if you’re inclined to pin your faith—or lack thereof—on your circumstances, consider the words of the apostle Paul:
“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
2 Timothy 1:12 (NIV84)
The truth is everything is connected—whether we appreciate it or not.
Courtesy of Grooveshark.com, here are some of Chicago’s Our Town songs I was listening to out in the driveway: Old Days, Dialogue (Part 1 & Part 2), (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long, and Alive Again.