I don’t know about you, but when I think of Jesus Christ I often focus on his power and majesty. He is the Son of God! He is the King of Kings! Sure, he loves us enough to die for us, but that fills me with more awe and wonder than anything else. To use words like “precious” and “dear” when referring to my Savior feels a little weird. I call my daughters precious. I call my husband dear. Why is it hard for me to think of my Elder Brother in those terms?
I keep my most precious things close. If they aren’t physically with me, I at least know where they are and have a reasonable assurance that they are safe and well. I check on them frequently. It makes sense that my relationship with Jesus Christ should be treated the same way. If I’m not consciously drawing near to him, I should at least feel confident that he is there, that he loves me, and that I am doing his will to the best of my ability. I should check in with him frequently. I am dear to him, and he should be precious to me.
The final lines of the first two verses–”May each soul in thee abide” and “Let us never from thee stray” respectively–reaffirm the need to keep precious things safe and close. But from what?
In this hymn the words “sin” and “tide” are closely linked not once but twice. There are times in our lives when we reach spiritual peaks; being good comes easily and the Holy Ghost truly is our constant companion. There are other times when we grow weary or complacent or bitter or confused or whatever the case me be. Sin and doubt creep into our lives, as a rising tide slowly advances up the shore.
The Savior can provide a bulwark against this rising tide, keeping us safe and dry in his protection. But we must continually maintain our relationship with him, lest any crack in the barrier allow the tide to break through and overwhelm us. We must have the “swift conviction” necessary to ask for his help in “turning back the sinful tide” as soon as we recognize its advance.
I know I’m not the only parent who insists that my daughter stays right by my side–preferably holding my hand–when we are in a parking lot. This, I think, is what is meant by the “narrow way”. Staying within the bounds prescribed by our Savior protects us from nearby dangers and potential distractions; if we were allowed to wander, we might get lost or injured or who knows what else. With Christ’s “loving arms around us” we are safe.
Even at our Savior’s side, we will experience trying times. I’ve written about this before. Life will be hard, but with his help we can endure. Our hearts may be broken, but he can bind them. We may know sorrow, but he will bear some of that burden so we are not overwhelmed. We will undoubtedly cry, but he will dry our tears. The storms will come but they will pass, and if we keep Christ close in our hearts, in the end we will know “everlasting peace” in our Father’s presence.