Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.
-Elizabeth C. Clephane
We sang this hymn in church yesterday.
It was one of those times when certain phrases - so familiar - stood out from the rest and have stayed with me through this day. Weary land...rest upon the way...burden of the day. I often meditate by simply sitting still and envisioning quiet moments with Jesus. I can see my weary self, sitting down on a rock in the shadow of the cross, and just sitting there.
Resting. Refueling. Abiding.
Abide. It's an old word. We rarely hear it used in its biblical sense these days. Webster defines it as "to remain stable or fixed in a state, as in love." In John 15:4, Jesus tells us "Abide in me and I in you." I think he's saying "Stay with me. Focus on me. Let me be your abiding place."
I like to look at the story beyond the page. What was it like for this author's life?
Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane lived her whole life (1830 - 1869) in the area of Edinburgh, Scotland. Her father was the county sheriff. She and her three sisters spent their lives ministering to the needy. Elizabeth was always frail and sickly but she did not let that stop her from what she saw as her mission in life. The author of many poems, she wrote this one - as one person noted - at the very edge of her life, a year before she died. A musician, Frederick Maker, later set the lines to this lovely tune.
While her physical abilities may have hindered her, Elizabeth wore such a happy countenance that she was called "Sunshine." That may be the source for a reference in the final stanza: "I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face." What a witness! When I am overwhelmed by the burdens of this weary land, I pray that I will remember to step aside, sit down on that rock, and abide.
I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.