Home Catechetical Corner Second Sunday of Lent: The life of Robert Robinson and ‘Come Thou...

Second Sunday of Lent: The life of Robert Robinson and ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’

323
A visitor gazes into the great wilderness Aug. 14, 2016, at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, Tenn., a place where many travelers are finding spiritual replenishment during the National Park Service's centennial year. "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,/ prone to leave the God I love," are lyrics from the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,/ prone to leave the God I love.”

This line from the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” rings true to me.

Even several times in a single day, I find myself caught up in something trivial, something that took my heart elsewhere, instead of resting in God’s love. This holds especially true during Lent, as I realign my heart and my gaze on Jesus.

The author of the hymn, Robert Robinson, understood how our affections become distorted and how we wander “from the fold of God.”

Raised in a Christian home, Robinson moved to London in 1749 as a teen to become a barber’s apprentice. With his newfound freedom, he became involved with a gang of ruffians. His life became entrenched in sin.

I have never been part of a gang of criminals, but I have had years, one year in particular, where I turned away from God — boldly, angrily and sinfully. I see now, just as in Robinson’s story, God gently nudged me with opportunities to turn away from sin and return to the Gospel.

For Robinson, that moment came when he joined his group of hoodlums to heckle the preacher, George Whitefield. Instead of mocking Whitefield, Robinson was moved by his words of truth and goodness.

(CNS illustration)

Robinson returned to his faith. In fact, he eventually became a minister himself. In 1758, at age 22 he wrote the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” both a call for and a celebration of God’s mercy.

For me, it is the last verse that sings my heart.

“Oh, to grace how great a debtor/ daily I’m constrained to be!”

Grace, that gift that Jesus gives us so freely, the gift I need to hold and cling to, daily, hourly as I find myself distracted by things that aren’t of him. And yes, I am forever in “debt” to this grace. There is nothing I can do or pay back. I can only accept.

“Let thy goodness, like a fetter,/ bind my wandering heart to thee.”

I love the use of the Old English word, fetter, a chain used to restrain a prisoner. The only other time I ever hear it used is during my annual viewing of the holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol.”

Marley’s ghost is described as being fettered to objects associated with the sins he committed in life, cash boxes and ledger books. But instead of sin, Robinson pleads to be fettered to God’s goodness.

This reminds me of the John Donne sonnet that begins with the line, “Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you.” Like St. Paul, we battle with God, continuing to do that which we do not want to do (Rom 7). This destructive behavior needs a counterbalance: God’s goodness, God’s heart.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,/ prone to leave the God I love.”

That horrid year, the year I particularly, specifically wandered from God, I remember thinking, “I missed loving God.” Why did I leave? As if I knew how to live better without God? But I did wander. We do.

When I sing these lines, I feel the sorrow of that sin and yet I recall the words of Jesus, “No one can take them out of the Father’s hand” (Jn 10:29) and how he gently nudged me, and Robinson, to return to him.

“Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;/ seal it for thy courts above.”

The Old Testament is full of references to seals. They marked official documents, personalized with the imprint of the owner. St Paul writes that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit — a mark that we belong to Jesus.

And may this be my prayer, our prayer, not just this Lent, but each morning: that our hearts are sealed for God.

Gonzalez is a freelance writer. Her website is www.shemaiahgonzalez.com.