In an effort to live a more poetic life this year, I am actively seeking the sublime ~ things of excellence, grandeur and beauty. I’m convinced these things exist in our ordinary lives, and I plan to write about something sublime on the third Wednesday of each month.
I was only a few hours into the first day of the new year when something sublime unexpectedly found me. It was the hymn It is Well with My Soul penned by Horatio Gates Spafford in 1873. It is a hymn I’ve known since I was a child, a hymn I can still hear my grandmother playing on the piano and my father singing in the pew next to me. And it is a hymn I like to hum to myself when life gets dicey, as it is apt to do.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
If those words don’t instantly make you feel a calming wave of peace, please read them again and again until they do.
A couple of years ago my best friend, not knowing how much I love that hymn, gave me a pretty linen tea towel with those very words printed in blue. It hangs in my kitchen perfectly pressed and arranged as if to say, “Don’t even think about actually wiping your grubby hands on this towel!” Each time I see it, old Horatio sings me his faithful words and I swim in a river of peace.
As I stood in church that first day of January, I was overcome with the simple sublimity of the moment. A fresh new year stretched out before me, with a difficult one well behind. A community of friendly folks lifted their voices in joyful praise. And a message of blessed assurance, from auld lang syne, wrapped its arms around me as I loudly sang off-key…
It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul! §
“To bring the sublime into the mundane is the greatest challenge there is.”
~Hazrat Inayat Khan