Sunday, March 3, 2013

How Firm a Foundation

It's been one of my favorite hymns for a long time, and I wrote about "How Firm a Foundation" in a post not too long ago.  You can read that here.  But it's been in my mind a lot lately, and new ideas keep surfacing.  It is time to write again.

I believe that a spirituality that is not constantly evolving, is in the process of dying.  One of the best ways for me to keep growing is to keep searching, looking beyond the things right in front of me to find other ways of viewing the world.  As I explore what's out there, I find a deeper, more meaningful approach to the things I have always known.

***WARNING:  This post is about things that may make you uncomfortable or that may even directly contradict your beliefs.  This is not about me trying to convince you.  It is about me stating what I have found and what speaks to me.

Although some sources point to Robert Keen as the author of this text, we don't really know for sure since when it was first published, in the space for the author's name there was simply a "K".  What we do know is that for a couple hundred years, this text, sung to various tunes has provided strength, solace, and encouragement to numerous people.

I remember one evening a few years ago when it spoke to me.  I was stressed and tired, and entered the church late after a long day of recitals at school.  My body hurt, but I wanted to be there.  To be honest, I don't remember any thing from that service, except for this song.  You can read all the verses here.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand...As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.  
That was what I needed to hear at that moment.

I've performed this song for three different church meetings in the last year, and each time it calls to me, asking me to dig deeper, to see more, to feel more.  In the post referenced earlier, I talked about how the song was no longer just about someone giving me aid, but how I can act, how I can be the one who is there to lift and strengthen.  And then someone asked us to share examples of how we see Heavenly Mother, or the Feminine Divine, in the everyday.  And suddenly, I saw her in this song.  Yes, these things can all be attributes of a male deity too, but I see and feel something different when I bring the feminine to this song.

The word "foundation" made me think of solid grounding on the earth.  Earth and nature are associated with the Feminine Divine.  She is also there grounding us because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Succor.  Aid.  Relief.  Comfort.  Those are words that speak to me of a Heavenly Mother.  Succor literally means running under.  I love the image of a mother lifting a child to carry it through the dangers, "upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand".

Water and Fire.  Both life giving and potentially dangerous. We tend to read these verses more towards the danger, but I think they are also about the life-giving of our Heavenly Parents.  I see these two middle verses as the marriage of our Heavenly Parents and how they individually and collectively go about helping us reach our fullest potential.  In many traditions, water is feminine.  Water often symbolizes intuition, emotions, and the unconscious.  We have to go deep into the water (your body is mostly water), into ourselves, to find who we really are, to find our essence, our souls.  She will make the journey sacred.  She is there waiting for us. The fire is masculine, and I tend to think of it as outward refinement.  Heavenly Father won't let us be destroyed by it, but we can be purified by those things that happen to us, that come at us from the outside through no fault of our own.

The sixth verse speaks of an image that we have come to associate with Jesus Christ, that of carrying the lamb.  What I find so beautiful about this is that the image itself is full of symbols of the feminine, showing that Christ embodies the best of what we tend to think of as masculine and feminine qualities.  The lamb, a tiny helpless newborn.  The bosom, a place of safety, nourishment, peace.  Borne, carried, transported, but also the past tense of bear which means to give birth to. This verse speaks of Christ, but I cannot read it without also thinking of my Heavenly Mother.

In the seventh and final verse, I see Christ, my Heavenly Father, and my Heavenly Mother, but especially my Heavenly Mother.  I kind of see Mother Bear in this verse.  She is protective.  It is who she is.  It is what she does.  She's never going to walk away.

Is this what most people think of when they sing this hymn?  Probably not, but it's where I am today.  "How Firm a Foundation" is a call to me to be there for others that need lifting up.  It is a reminder of people, real people, that I can turn to when I feel too burdened to go on.  It is message from my Heavenly Mother reminding me that she too is there for me and always will be.

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