Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hide Me O My Savior -- Fanny Crosby

By her own admission, she did not remember penning the words to this, so it would not be surprising that she would also not know why she had crafted the words. But, when you’ve authored thousands of compositions, you couldn’t expect to recall each one – and so it was with Frances Jane (Fanny) Crosby. Was she asking for herself or someone else, when Fanny wrote “Hide Me O My Savior” in 1886? There must have been plenty of episodes when she realized that, even though she’d written the words, she was in fact merely a conduit for what her Creator wanted to accomplish. Even she, a blind senior citizen at age 66, was not all used up, and considering where she probably was (she was active among several missions in Manhattan, including the Cremorne, shown here), she must have been an inspiration to those whom she encountered. Above all, she wanted to identify with the hurting, and urge those same people to identify with Him.     

Fanny (also often characterized as Aunt Fanny) had a lengthy career writing about her Savior, even though she did not begin until she was in her mid-40s and undoubtedly mingled this aptitude with other pursuits. For the next 50 years she composed nearly 9,000 poems that were put to music, including this hymn about hiding in her Savior. Its exact date of composition is unclear, even though it was first published and included in a hymnal in 1886. Crosby’s own memory of “Hide Me…” was that she did not remember it; indeed, she says that upon hearing it in a Massachusetts gathering of believers, she insisted that a companion (Ira Sankey) reveal its author’s identity.  If she was writing autobiographically, the first verse’s concluding words – ‘…let me see thy face’ – suggest she was eagerly anticipating the next life and renewed eyesight. Were verses two and three, in which she alludes to trials, also about herself, or others instead? The ‘raging storms’, ‘troubled sea’, ‘breaking heart’, ‘weight of woe’, and ‘(someone) in tears’ could have indicated she observed others in trouble, a very likely possibility among the multitude of people she would have encountered in the various missions where she was involved between 1880 and the end of the 19th century. Many of her hymns were sung, perhaps for the first time, among the inhabitants of Manhattan’s slums. Who would have appreciated more the sentiment Fanny shared regarding a life needing God’s protection?       

How much has changed in the 130 years since “Hide Me O My Savior” was crafted by Aunt Fanny? Many major urban areas are home to the homeless and accompanying shelters, things that many of us avoid personally, and observe most often only in dusty, faded pictures of the Great Depression. This was before Fanny was around, but her era had its own destitute folks, those among the ‘least of these’ (Matthew 25:40-45). Thousands still walk the hard road today, even in our nation’s capital, so “Hide Me…” still resonates for them. I have a roof, nice clothes, a car, a job, friends…wealth, actually. But, don’t be tricked by all that. You and I still need to hide, more often than ever. Fanny’s words are still relevant.

See the following sites for information re: the composer and the song:

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