Hymns are Sneaky.

There's a great temptation in my life--and I'd venture to say, a lot of people's lives--to avoid being seen as too anything. Too loud. Too quiet. Too enthusiastic. Too Christian. Too intelligent. The list goes on. The problem with this mode of living is that in avoiding being too anything, you become, well, nothing. Bland. Pleasant yet unexciting. Passionless. Not unique. Self-less.

And at that point, who are you?

I was reminded of this over the weekend when we sang "It is Well" at my church.

I know that's not really a typical take-away from that hymn, but let's go there together, shall we?

A byproduct of my love for writing is that I am a total grammar nerd (or nazi, depending on whether you see this quality as endearing or obnoxious).

In my years as a church-going grammar nerd I have noticed that hymns are sneaky. If you're like me, you've sung them approximately 100 times each and sometimes don't even know what you're singing about ("Bringing in the Sheaves," anyone?). Hymns also often invert parts of sentences to achieve a certain meter or rhyme (I'm going to have to ask that you fight the urge to let your eyes glaze over at the mention of "meter" and "rhyme"), making them less straightforward. What's more, in many churches, including my own, we look at lyrics projected on a screen rather than printed in a hymnal. In transferring the lyrics onto slides, somehow much (if not all) of the punctuation disappears.

All of these factors contribute to our struggle to glean the original meaning of the hymn when singing it in 2011.

But I've recently found that when I pay attention to the punctuation (or what I think would be the punctuation) and/or rearrange the words to form more typical subject-verb sentences, the hymns reveal new meaning.

The line that hit me this weekend (here punctuated by yours truly) was:

"My sin--oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin--not in part, but the whole--was nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more! Praise the Lord; praise the Lord, O my soul!"

The writer--who I have now googled and learned was Horatio Spafford (you may have already known that)-- was so taken by this idea that his sin was completely atoned for, that he couldn't even finish his sentence without exclaiming how amazing it was. He interrupts himself--twice--before he finishes his thought. First, to wonder at the sheer joy of what he was about to declare, and second, to reiterate that it was not just some of his sin that was atoned for, which would have been incredible enough, but all of it. I love that it is written that way. I love that he didn't just cross out the beginning of the sentence and start with "Oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!" It really makes it come alive.

To bring this back around, the lyric reflects someone who was not afraid of being too excited or too enthusiastic. He couldn't contain it. When was the last time I was so overcome with the joy of a truth that I couldn't even finish my sentence without interjecting how wonderful it was? I want that sort of passion for the Lord. I don't want to worry whether I will come off too Christian or too enthusiastic. Something I'll be working on for a long time.

Have you feared being "too" something?