(Reflections on Favorite Hymns, Praise Songs and Anthems)
[Writer’s Note: the following was written while creating the piano solo arrangement of “I Surrender All”, found on the album “Songs From The Heart. You may listen to this arrangement, as well as to the Choir’s performance of this hymn by clicking on the links below this post.]
“I surrender all”. The words soared through my mind as I began crafting a version of this wonderful hymn. Suddenly, I had this question arise in my mind: “Oh really?? You mean, you actually are going to give up ALL that you have – freely – to the God of the universe? Can you even PLAY this hymn in all good conscience?” I remembered that a good friend of mine had often said that the title of this hymn should probably be changed to “I Surrender SOME”, just to keep us all from being liars!
As I played this hymn over and over, praying for inspiration, it seemed that as I got into the song, I kept departing from the sedate and subdued style in which we usually hear this song performed. I found myself playing big chords, minor harmonies and even dissonance — replicating the struggle I could feel inside as those words “I Surrender All” repeated over and over. The more I played the more I sensed the difficulty we feel –the resistance that wells up inside us when we think about giving up our creature comforts to give to our church or even stepping outside of our comfort zone to share our faith. Hence, the big, loud, almost “violent” section in the middle of this arrangement! Following this part, I did feel a bit of catharsis – like “praying through” (or a bit like a child who has cried it all out) and I could come back to the beautiful melody, very simply stated – feeling humbled and acutely aware of my meager, inadequate attempts at true surrender most of the time.
Surrender is difficult in a success-hungry world. The need for winning — for victory — has so saturated our society that even assigning grades in school could be in jeopardy because they may make some students feel less than successful! Already, many youth sports teams are not allowed to “lose” and trophies are given to everyone at season’s end, regardless of the record! We just cannot bring ourselves to face our inadequacies. So, rather than self-examination, we choose self-promotion. In short, we pretend – turning a blind eye to our weakness and a deaf ear to a righteous God who would call us to surrender. In a quest for self-esteem, I fear we have lost the ability or even the desire to search our souls! Shame, remorse, repentance are all replaced by excuses and justification. It’s someone else’s fault, certainly! Our haughty ways are seen simply as exercises in positive self-esteem – a stark contrast to the attitude of “surrender”!
Face to face with an omnipotent God, a sinless Savior who gave his life for us, how can we stand – proud, stubborn, and self-sufficient?
Scripture for Meditation: Luke 9:23
Then Jesus said to all of them, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
“God, thank you for showing me my selfish heart that would try to withhold even from You who loves me more than anyone else ever could. Help me know that I can trust You with everything that I have, all that I am and all I ever hope to be. Now to the best of my ability – and ONLY by your amazing grace – I can sing (and play) “all to thee, my blessed Savior – I Surrender All.”
Joyfully serving Him,
Kathy Bowman Director of Music and Ministries
“I Surrender All” from Kathy Bowman’s Songs From the Heart →