Be Thou My Vision

The Prayer of Every Christian

I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

You could tell, at first glance, something was wrong. She walked along the sidewalk without the usual grace found in most her age. With broken movements, she crawled along the pavement as a fly trying to lift off with one wing. A guiding stick, poised before her as mares in Pharaoh’s chariot, she tried her best to maneuver a world where men now stood as trees. The cane rapped the concrete with the rhythm of a man pecking at a typewriter, until a lift in the concrete broke the melody. She stumbled in darkness at midday.

She most likely had made this walk many times, never so meticulously. Her newness to the task communicated that her diagnosis was degenerative. Slurred shapes moved about her. Daylight, never before, stood a rare commodity. The sun, for her, was setting.

So she practiced sailing through the neighborhood while it was still day, walking stick in hand with her father by her side. Step by step, they inched together. When the prosthetic limb overlooked the crack in the path, an unforgettable expression flashed upon his face. Every stagger was a dagger to her father’s heart.

Yet he did not rush to brace her.

Tears streaming down his face, he let her reel and wobble. With every trip and lurch he would reach out his hand, but stop it before it reached her. She needed to learn to walk again for herself — though she was not by herself. His eyes, fixed unblinkingly upon her well-being; his heart, stammering every time she did; his voice, guiding her from above — he was her vision. And as they struggled along, beauty grew in a most unlikely place: She beamed forth a smile, which radiated from her trust in him.

Be My Vision

Like this precious young girl stuttering along the sidewalk that August day, we all need one above us to be our vision. We need him to guide us through the dim streets of this world, steering us through all its cracks and cliffs. We need someone to inch alongside us. As darkness falls, we need one whose presence can be our light. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

Such a one, the perfect one, came from the brilliance of heaven’s throne into our night. With him, our eyes do not need to see the path ahead, though it be filled with twists and turns. We need but see the King in his beauty. He is our Way. He is our Truth. He is our Life. We behold him. And though the narrow road to glory leads through the valley of the shadow of death — for our Shepherd leads us there — we shall fear no evil, for he is with us always — even to the end of the age.

Although we have not yet seen Jesus with our physical eyes, the eyes of our hearts have beheld him and loved him, and rejoiced “with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). We hear his voice over our shoulders. As we hope in him and consider which way to turn, his Spirit dwells within us, saying, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). And our faces too, radiate with a joy that proves our trust in him.

Take My Hand

Later that day, I saw the girl and her father pass once again outside my window. As they returned home, she continued to piteously stumble about — that is, until her father whispered something in her ear. With a final beam of happiness rarely seen this side of heaven, she thrust the stick towards her father, who replaced the cane with his hand. No more tottering. No more trouble. No more toil. What a beautiful picture it was: “I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you’” (Isaiah 41:13).

Soon, this world, with all its shadows and ditches, shall fade away. And we, seeing only dimly now, will see him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). And when he bends down and whispers into our ears that it is time to depart from this life, we too shall thrust our walking sticks away, beam with a happiness not seen this side of heaven, and grip his hand as he leads us to that place we’ve only got glimpses of through the keyhole.

But until that day when we will see him completely, that day which, for us, is where all days run, we sing along the sidewalk,

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.