Sunday, March 18, 2018

Walking Alone at Eve -- Thomas R. Sweatmon

He’d recently moved to a new city, and had a close and abiding connection with his God, something he probably really needed as he went about acquainting himself with new surroundings and people. Was it any different for Thomas R. Sweatmon than it would have been for you or me, as he mulled over “Walking Alone at Eve” in 1917, after having moved from his native Georgia to Louisville, Kentucky? Can anyone truly say he likes to be alone all of the time? Was this true of Sweatmon, or did he consider seeking out crowds, perhaps even at one of Louisville’s largest crowd-gathering places – the Kentucky Derby venue at Churchill Downs (shown here in 1901)? These questions must have crossed Thomas’ mind, not just for himself, but in order to consider the lives of people he contacted as a minister. Reading what this minister wrote one hundred years ago, you could conclude that he thought solitude was not such a bad deal.

The 41-year old Thomas Sweatmon was no stranger to music nor to people, since he was a minister and a singing school teacher by trade. He wrote the lyrics to a few dozen hymns in his lifetime, but probably contacted many more students and others to whom he ministered in his life, even by the time he penned the words to “Walking Alone at Eve”. So, what would have been on the mind of a minister who’d spent perhaps the bulk of his day relating to others, perhaps including dealing with some conflicts?  Was ‘Walking Alone…’ a reflection of what he felt at the end of a typical day for himself, a need to decompress and just rest in the presence of the Divine One? Or, was it advice to others that he conveyed, a message that they too should ‘be still’ (Psalm 46:10)?  Whomever the audience was, the sentiment for alone time with the Creator was not a one-verse phenomenon, for Sweatmon transmits this message in all three stanzas. He recommends star-gazing (v.1), dusk-watching (v.2), and meditation (v.3) as methods to enchant one’s soul with His eternal assurance. Drawing close to God was apparently not a spontaneous, accidental effort for this minister. To really hear Him and appreciate His ultimate gift was an intentional solitary experience, according to Thomas. Aside from his few dozen hymn poems and the details above, we know little else of Thomas Sweatmon, yet this much is clear: He made time for uninterrupted moments to search Him out, and he found Him. The hurly-burly of life didn’t drown out the whisper of Deity.

Is there a closet for me? Is there someplace away from the noise, but somewhere that I don’t risk suffocating seclusion at the same time? The movie Castaway (Tom Hanks) is one that alarms the solitude advocate, for can the human animal endure being alone? Would I not descend to calling a volleyball ‘Wilson’? Fortunately, God doesn’t enforce solitude on most of us in this way. He doesn’t expect me to adopt a monk’s habits for days or years at a time. Yet, don’t forget how Elijah was able to gird himself for life…listening to a whisper in a cave’s mouth (1 Kings 19). Thomas Sweatmon must have thought Elijah had discovered something valuable. Find your closet or cave – and Him, therein, at least for a few minutes.   

Some scant information on the composer here:

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