rituals: when hymns belong to babies (christy knutson).

I’ve got a lovely guest post for you today …one that involves babies and songs that are not just songs but hymns. Because, as writer Christy Knutson says below, sometimes we build rituals – but sometimes rituals build us. Ain’t that the truth.  Enjoy my new friend’s words, and cheer her on by leaving a comment at the end of the post! 

Photo cred: Ashley Blevins Photography.
Photo cred: Ashley Blevins Photography.

It’s nighttime and her daily afternoon-long colic fit is behind us. I sway in the darkness, singing, “…strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…” as the tears roll from my face into her mop of black hair. I sing more to myself than to her. Over and over, the liturgy of hope and faithfulness. The prayers and pleading for strength and the light of a new day.

I am drowning in the overwhelm of life with my first baby, combined with a touch of postpartum depression and the searing pain that comes with being stripped of selfishness and control. The incessant crying, the lack of comfort she seems to find in me and the loneliness broke me. What began as a ritual for her ended up as a source of comfort for me.

***

I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy with Annazalie when I found myself on a plane to Las Vegas. I was meeting two of my dearest college friends for a carefree, sweet, refreshing weekend in the most unlikely of places.

A friend had recently mailed me a copy of Noel Piper’s book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, knowing my penchant for all things tradition. It was a quick read and I drank deep the ideas and values she shared. One tradition struck me as especially beautiful. John and Noel, before the births of their children, selected a hymn for each one. They sung the hymn as they rocked them to sleep at night and it grew with them as they grew.

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Early in my pregnancy with Annazalie we received results that indicated she was at a heightened risk for Down Syndrome. Having just experienced a miscarriage, we opted against an amniocentesis for clarity and decided to wait and see. For months we prayed over our growing daughter, trusting that she was being knit together with attention and care, no matter the outcome.

During that time of uncertainty her personal hymn became clear: Great is Thy Faithfulness. The song had always carried a special meaning for my husband and I and it was beautifully sung at our wedding. The lyrics became a battle song of sorts, declaring that despite the circumstances of her health, God is and will be faithful to her and to us.

Our sweet girl was born without that extra chromosome. She was declared “typical,” and we thanked God. We thanked Him that He was and is faithful no matter the particularity of her health, and we thanked Him that He will remain faithful in the specific struggles she will inevitably face.

***

A few years later I found myself, hands resting on belly, trying out a favorite hymn for our growing baby boy. We twirled it around in our minds for a few weeks, but it didn’t feel right. Days later we sang Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing in church and I knew we had landed on the hymn for our Bennet.

Several months before his first birthday I find myself standing in church. He, in true Bennet form, is resting in my arms, face nuzzled into my neck as we sing. One song ends and the violinist begins playing “his song.”

I think he is asleep, but within seconds his head pops up and with wide eyes and a look of excitement he looks to the front. As we begin singing the well-acquainted words his sugary sweet baby noises pipe up. In his own way he is worshiping with us. I glance at my husband and we can’t help but smile with overwhelming gratitude and love.

“…Let that grace now, like a fetter…Bind my wandering heart to thee…”

***

Out of all our many traditions and rituals, the selecting and pouring out of hymns over our children is one of my favorite. As their hearts grow and change and as our role as parents shift with them, the words will carry new meanings and memories. But despite circumstances and the particulars of our seasons in life, they will always serve to speak truth and hope over our family.

Sometimes we build rituals. Sometimes rituals build themselves. In our experience, the birth of this ritual for our children has grown into a gift for us as much as for them. And at the end of the day, that’s the thing about rituals. They like to surprise us.

***

Christy Knutson is a communications and creative professional at Moxie Speak. In her free time she enjoys writing over at the new Faith and Mystery. She calls Raleigh, NC home along with her husband (Jon), daughter (Annazalie), son (Bennet) and two cats. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram and (sometimes) TwitterIt’s Cara again: I mean, was that not an endearing post or WHAT? Regardless of your faith leanings, what is the hymn you sing over your children, over your love, over your friend? Enter the conversation!

6 thoughts on “rituals: when hymns belong to babies (christy knutson).

  1. As my husband and I patiently await the birth of our first child, a precious baby boy, we have been making a list of all the traditions we would like to start with our children. Selecting a hymn for each child to sing every night is the perfect addition to our list!

  2. I loved this. We sing “Amazing Grace” over our “baby” boy — every night for the past two years. I’ve caught myself thinking “Will I be singing this every night for the next 10+ years?!” Will future siblings get the same song? I like the idea of having a special hymn for each child in the family. That’s really special.

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