And Can it Be

  • Aug. 2, 2011
  • #7632

Hi, I'm Joni and welcome to "Joni and Friends"…

I have a question: Has the modern era ever produced a 14-year-old who cared – really cared – about theology? The kind they talk about in the dusty libraries of ivory towers? If you had asked me on November 13, 1964, I would have said “no.” Great doctrines of the Christian faith were reserved for monks in robes or for seminary professors who kept their noses in the pages of thick text books… not for me.

But my perspective changed the next evening on November 14th. I was just a kid and I was at a conference center in Natural Bridge, Virginia with Young Life – kind of an evangelistic outreach to high school kids like me. Anyway, that evening as I sat on the hardwood floor of the camp meeting hall, I felt my heart open (like a flower unfolding, like a light dawning), I honestly felt my soul open to the Gospel being presented by our Young Life speaker. When he asked if any of us wanted to pray to embrace Christ as our Savior, I didn’t hesitate. That night I found myself back at the camp meeting hall with the rest of my high school friends, clapping, singing and celebrating my new birth into the family of God. 

Now. I don’t know if this happened to you when you first became a believer, but I looked around and noticed that everything felt different; things even looked different. The lights in the camp hall seemed brighter and warmer. The colors of my friends’ clothes seemed to be more vivid; their smiles, happier… even the songs sounded different. Before, the hymns and Gospel songs were fun to sing, but now they meant something. I remember stopping singing one hymn and I just read the words in amazement. It was the hymn “And Can It Be” and I was mesmerized by the third verse: “Long my imprisoned spirit lay Fast bound in sin and nature’s night. But Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray: I woke – the dungeon flamed with light! My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee."

Everyone else continued singing, but I was still mulling over those words to that hymn. Twenty-four hours earlier I would have given you a weird look had you told me my spirit lay imprisoned. Me? Bound in sin? No way! But now with the Spirit of Christ residing inside me, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I had left behind nature’s night. It truly felt as though chains had fallen off me. There was something else about those words in that hymn where it says:  “Thine eye diffused a quickening ray.” I would learn later on from a student of theology that it meant my salvation originated with God, not with me. The Lord was the one who made me alive; it was nothing I had done. He was the one who gave me saving faith; it was nothing I had mustered. It was His eye from which enlightenment came, not mine. That hymn became a favorite. 

In fact less than a month into my new-found faith in Christ, I had memorized all four stanzas. From then on out, whenever I would sing it by heart at Wednesday night’s Young Life Club, whenever I would hum it on the hockey field or whistle it in between classes, whenever it would swell inside my soul on a clear morning, whenever and wherever I happily sang all four stanzas, I was learning great Christian doctrine. It’s why And Can It Be is still a favorite every time I sing it I become a better theologian. And you know what, you can too. 

© Joni and Friends

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