Images are important. They are powerful communication tools that often leave indelible marks on us. There is a reason crowds flock to art museums year after year. We connect to what we see. We are visual people.
God knows this and uses this to help us grasp key truths about him and life. For instance, the word “rock” doesn’t particularly speak volumes to me. However, when God is described as a rock, suddenly key spiritual truths strengthen my soul. Another popular one is the word shepherd. Even though the profession is lost on our modern culture, “the LORD is my Shepherd” continues to serve as a long held image of God that comforts his people in many ways.
Song writers have long understood the power of metaphor. God guided the psalmists in such a skill. Some of our oldest hymns utilized metaphor. And our modern songs do the same.
Two metaphors have recently grabbed my attention from the songs we sing as a church family.
First, in the 1700s, Robert Robinson wrote a dearly loved hymn, Come Thou Fount. The words that have long had my attention are “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” It’s true for me. I have a propensity to sin. My heart often, too often, leans toward autonomy and selfish ambition. But it is the metaphor Robinson uses prior to this phrase that has recently come on my radar, “fetter.”
I didn’t know what a fetter was, so I looked it up. It’s a chain, often used in prisons, to contain someone. I think of a ball and chain. These are negative images in my mind because I am constrained to something I don’t want to be, i.e., a prison cell. But what if what I’m fettered to is something (or rather someone) grand and wonderful. Since I am so prone to wander and leave, then being fettered (chained) to God’s goodness and mercy is a wonderful image for me to cling to day in and day out.
A second metaphor is in the song we introduced recently, Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor by Matt Boswell. I had heard the song several weeks prior and it struck me as one to grab onto. But the song had a greater impact for me the Sunday morning we introduced it. Later that night I found myself in one mean storm, actually multiple storms. It seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong. While in the midst of that storm and chaos for a few days, the phrases of that song kept going through my mind, almost on repeat. It was what I needed. It gave me hope in the midst of crisis because I was reminded that he is an anchor to me.
Now, I know I’m not special. I know that my troubles are common to you as well. Some of you have walked through pain and suffering not just for days, but for decades. My question to all of us, though, is, “What metaphor are you holding onto this week?” What picture, or image, helps you grasp a truth about God that you can, and need, to hold onto? Are they in the songs you sing? I hope so.
What do you think? Does this remind you of a favorite metaphor that God has used to help you trust him more? I’d enjoy hearing it if you do. Please comment below if so.