A reflection by Hetty
O God, our Help in ages past
Our Help for years to come.
Our Shelter from the stormy blast, and our Eternal Home.
I am a small girl, sitting on a hard wooden 1950s school desk.
High above the blackboard is a wedge shaped speaker, and out of the speaker comes a crackly, church organ led version of this hymn.
It’s Anzac Day.
A familiar tune that I only heard once a year in the same place at the same time. At first it was the melody that gave me comfort and peace. Every year I forgot, and then I heard it again and my soul remembered. I sat in that new classroom, one year older, and let the notes cascade over me, swirling around me, enveloping me.
Then I began to listen to the phrases. And in my young mind I joined the words to my life. Our help, my help. Ages past, my past.
There was only one event in my past. My father died. Whatever else had happened meant nothing to me. It loomed large whenever I glanced back and it touched everything that was now.
I let these thoughts skitter across my consciousness and then they disappeared until next Anzac Day.
Next Anzac Day. I was in high school now. No speakers on the wall, we were all in the quadrangle with the principal on a platform leading the service. We had sheets with the words of the hymns, and there it was – my hymn.
I stared at the words:
Our help, ages past. Our Hope, our Shelter.
There was something I’d never noticed before. Our shelter from the stormy blasts. I’d certainly known some of those in my ages past. Oh, I knew it was meant to conjure images of soldiers hunkered down in trenches while bullets and explosions rained down on them. But I also knew the hunkering down I’d done while the circumstances of my life exploded around me.
Our Shelter, my Shelter.
My family began to attend a different church. Now we had a service every week and a hymn book in the pew. The services were long but the hymn book was a source of entertainment for a young girl with a good imagination. I silently read through the wedding vows at the back, choosing two random people in the congregation to marry. I read through the alphabetical index and the topical index and anything else I could find in that book.
And then I found it! My Anzac Day hymn.
There were more verses that I’d never known!
“Under the shadow of thy throne,
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.”
I hummed the tune under my breath as I read the words.
Here was the perfect marriage of my comforting tune and these life affirming words on the page before me.
I knew this. I’d lived this.
“Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.”
Did it matter that I’d lived through stormy blasts? Did it matter that more stormy blasts would be coming my way in the future? Not when I had the assurance of a eternal, everlasting Shelter.
“Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.”
This morning I woke up singing my Anzac Day hymn. Much time has rolled on since I sat staring at the speaker above the blackboard. They fly, forgotten, as a dream.
But Thou……our Guide, and our Eternal Home. My Eternal Home.