01 September 2014

Onward, No Matter How Dark the Path

I'm not one to sit down at the piano to learn a new piece and get downright angry at a composer.

No, not even when it's hard, or when I can't seem to find a good fingering, or when I mess it up ten times in a row.

Oh, but that day, I could hardly take it, and I was boiling mad at Marilyn Ham (a composer and arranger whose sacred music for piano, by the way, is some of my absolute favorite to play).

Mind you, I loved the idea of combining "The Battle Belongs to the Lord", which talks about the how our battles are really the Lord's battles to fight, with "Onward, Christian Soldiers".  I loved the switch from the intensely anxious minor-key verse when the heavenly army enters the land to the full and triumphant major-key chorus when we soldiers glorify the Lord of our army.

I just couldn't handle the transition to "Onward, Christian Soldiers" that kept it in a sad, mournful, plodding minor key.

And I won't lie, I was downright angry.  

Who puts this triumphant hymn of faith in a sad, despondent key?  If not even THIS hymn can be an encouraging battle cry anymore, what else is really left?  Where is hope if it can't be here?

Why I didn't just stop right there and choose a new piece to learn instead, I'm really not sure.  But I kept playing, plodding through this mournful Christian soldier's march until the tears flowed.

Because wasn't I on that very day feeling the weight and weariness of how sometimes the Christian walk just isn't easy, and feels the farthest thing from victorious?  Hadn't I just been wondering what in the world I was doing where I was, discouraged yet knowing somehow I was exactly where I should be, unable to discern a purpose in it all?

Somehow, though, even in my own life that didn't seem very glorious right then, by God's grace, I hadn't given up on the march.  I was still putting one foot in front of the other, hoping, praying, asking God to strengthen my faith until the light could shine just a bit brighter.

That minor key hung on in the music longer than I thought I could bear, but when that major key finish finally arrived for the very last verse, in fullest chords across the entire keyboard, my hope revived and the tears kept flowing for a new reason.  

I felt encouraged, strengthened, knowing the composer who at first made me so mad I could scream knew how to paint a sound scape of my life, with the promise of a brighter day ahead just beyond the next page.

I didn't have to pretend everything was glorious when it wasn't.  I just had to keep going.

My day of anger at the piano was a long time ago.  When I got that piece out again this fall, to freshen it up in my fingers, I was in a different place, a brighter place.

Still, I couldn't help but get a little teary eyed at the thought of how many people around me face those minor-key, discouraging marches right now.  And I whisper it softly, as if they could hear--

You're not alone.  It doesn't have to be a bright path to be the right path.  Victories won through hard battle are sweetest.  There's light up ahead.  Just hold tight to Jesus' hand, and keep walking, just keep walking through your dark valley.  We're almost home now.  He's coming soon for you and me, but meanwhile?  If you keep your eyes open, you'll often see a little bright flower beside your path to cheer your weary heart. 


  1. Oh, that is lovely! And so encouraging!

  2. This brought tears to MY eyes as I read it and "listened" to the familiar arrangement in my imagination... Yes, we keep walking.


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