WE HAVE AN ANCHOR
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.
It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, thro’ strength divine.
It will surely hold in the Straits of Fear—
When the breakers have told that the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.
It will firmly hold in the Floods of Death—-
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.
When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.
For those of you not familiar with this hymn, take a listen to this youtube link:
Written by Priscilla Owens in 1882, the background of this hymn really sparked my interest and let me tell you why. Ms. Owens was a teacher for over 50 years in the Baltimore school system. She taught Sunday school at the Methodist church she attended. And according to my research, she never married and died at the age of 78. Not much of a “spark” so far, huh? Well, keep reading. Most of you probably don’t know this, but my wife’s maiden name is Owens. She too is from Baltimore. She had a great aunt, Ruth Owens, that had a similar life story as the author of this hymn. Aunt Ruth never married. She taught school in the Baltimore school system for over 50, maybe even 60 years. The school system forced her to retire when they found out her age. Her personnel records predated anything the school system had on file so they didn’t know exactly how old she was. She was a Girl Scout leader for several decades, and taught the kindergarten class at Sexton United Methodist Church in Baltimore, or technically Morrell Park. She was a great lady who was a tremendous blessing to my wife and her brothers after my wife’s father passed away at a very young age.
I wondered, and actually hoped, that somehow the author of this hymn would be a distant relative of my wife. Wouldn’t it be neat to have a famous hymn writer as a part of my family’s heritage? So we pulled out my wife’s family tree and jotted down several names. I then emailed my aunt in Oklahoma who is an expert on genealogies to see what she could find out for me. You will have to keep reading to find out what happened next.
Couple of comments on the lyrics to this beautifully poetic song:
- Strong tides lift and the cables strain – I can imagine a huge ocean liner. The ones with the metal cables connected to a monstrous steel anchor. I picture this ship in the midst of a terrible storm. The anchor has been cast. The winds are ferocious. The storm is raging. The cable is being stretched and strained almost beyond it’s breaking point. Have you been there in your personal life? Maybe you are at that point today. The chorus reminds us that we do have an anchor. That anchor is steadfast and He is sure. Hebrews 6:18-20 tells us “so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Aren’t you grateful for a sure anchor and steadfast cables? Are you grateful for a High priest who knows our weaknesses? I know I sure am.
- Will? It will – I find it interesting that Ms. Owens asks two “Will?” questions in the first verse of this song, and then she follows those questions up with several bold declarations of “It will,” “We have,” and “It is” statements. In those times of questioning, we can return to the promises of God that are “Yea and amen.” To go to the Word and remind ourselves what the Lord has done and what He has promised to do. We don’t have to speak with uncertainty in our voices. We can, by faith, declare that our anchor will hold. That it will surely hold. That we have an anchor that keeps the soul. What a powerful difference between a questioning “will?” and a declarative “will.” That is the kind of faith I long to have in my daily life as I encounter the storms that inevitably come.
As Paul Harvey says, here’s “the rest of the story.” After a couple of weeks of hoping and praying, I got the news from my aunt. Priscilla Owens did not show up as a relative of my wife’s family. “Ahhhh!!!” was my reaction too. Apparently, she and a couple of her sisters never married, but took care of their father in Baltimore so they did not have any descendants, or any other relatives that we could trace back to my wife’s family. To be honest, I was a little disappointed. I had hoped that somehow, some way Priscilla Owens and I were related. It didn’t matter to me if she was a great, great, great aunt by marriage, or maybe a 3rd cousin twice removed (whatever that means). I just wanted her to be related to my wife’s family, and then I could selfishly claim her as part of my family.
But you know what? Priscilla Owens is part of my family. She is a sister – in the Lord. We are His children so that makes us related. We are part of the family of God. We will one day spend eternity in Heaven together. I hope to one day tell her this story. To tell her how this funny technology called “email” and old hymns got together, and led to the “Hymn of the week.” To tell her what a wonderful hymn she wrote that touched my heart, and how this hymn touched many others around the world. And tell her that I had an Anchor, and that my Anchor held. I hope that you too can one day tell her that your anchor held.