When I was in high school I was very active in band and choir. I played clarinet for roughly seven years and I sang in the choir for two. In my time in the music department, I’ve heard and played a lot of songs that have spoken to me on a level that can only be reached by music or literature. However, no piece has touched me more than “On a Hymnsong of Phillip Bliss” by David Holsinger. If you have ever heard the phrase, be it in song or poem, “it is well with my soul,” this song is inspired from the story behind that phrase.
In the late-1800’s, a man was planning a trip for he and his family to go to Europe. Right before the time of departure, the man was needed in Chicago and had to stay in the states to take care of some business, but he decided to send his wife and daughters on the ship to Europe as planned and he would follow them later on. However, after a few days, the man received a phone call from his wife who had landed in Europe informing him that the boat had been struck during its journey and sank within minutes – only she and a few survivors had made their way safety, his daughters not being a part of that few. Soon after, the man got on another ship to join his wife.
The story goes that as the ship was sailing overseas near the point where his daughters had drowned, the man was overcome with grief but turned to God. Here he was, in the midst of heartache and despair, turning upwards to God and saying, “When peace like a river attendth my way / when sorrows like sea-billows roll / whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know; / it is well, it is well with my soul.”
I played this piece at least once a year for three years in a row, and every time I played it I found myself in tears. There’s something unbelievably powerful about a faith so strong that it can give you peace at a time where peace seems unthinkable. I know everyone goes through heartache and they experience pain on different levels than the ones around them, but how often, in the midst of that hurt, can you remember turning to God and thinking that it is well with your soul? For three years now, this song, this poem, and this story, are a constant reminder to me that while trials may come and hardship will bear it’s way into my life, I know I will always be reassured of God’s support in my helpless state and it will always, always, be well with my soul.
A few years ago I made the decision to go back to church and find who I am with Christ. There are reasons why I did this, but they’re not important at the moment. What is important is one of the life changing things that I had learned. I remember going to a women’s conference about a year after, featuring Christa Black Gifford as the speaker. I learned so much at this conference and I grew personally and spiritually in so many ways, but one thing I will never forget is what I learned about the heart.
Christa had talked about having a broken heart – things in her life had caused wear and tear and left her heart weak. As she talked about this, I found tears filling my eyes. I realized that I had similar feelings. I’ll be the first to admit I have issues and I’ve been left with scars on my heart from things that have happened in my past. People have done me wrong and I’ve been left to fend for myself by building walls and pushing people away as soon as they get close. But the more I began to identify what was wrong and where the hurt came from, the more I was able to fix it. So when I ask people how their heart is, I don’t do so in hopes of making them sad, I do it because I’m genuinely curious and I don’t believe people think about their heart nearly as often as they should.
There is a form of art in the Chinese culture where pottery is broken and glued back together with a gold-glue mixture. What ends up being created is beautiful pottery with gold lines painted across it in place of the cracks. This art-form is known as “Kintsugi.” I wish we could take our broken hearts and fill them with gold. Rather than looking at what’s broken as something that’s ugly and irreparable, we can find a way to make it beautiful. We can take the cracks that leave us angry, and fill them with kindness; the cracks that make us cry, and fill them with love; the cracks that make us judgmental, and fill them with acceptance. Change is hard, especially when it stems from a place of such deep emotion. Changing your heart is like resetting a bone – it may hurt like hell, but in the end, it will allow the heart to heal back stronger than it was before.
Our hearts need to be reset and made strong.
Our hearts need to be filled with gold and made beautiful.
How’s your heart?
We all know the golden rule: “treat others the way you want to be treated.” And while this is a wonderful rule to follow, it rarely is. The problem is that in times of strong emotion such as sadness or anger, our mind goes towards ourselves and not others – we think of how we’re being treated and not how we should treat other people. All we can focus on is doing what we can to make ourselves feel better, then we can treat others the way we want to be treated (but only if they treat us that way first). I’m going to be honest… I think this rule is garbage. It’s a rule that brings out the selfish nature in humans and encourages us to act based on how we think we should act, which, can sometimes be very wrong. Yes, treating others the way we want to be treated is good, but it’s important to remember that we’re all different and what I can handle may be very different from what you can handle.
A while back I was scrolling through social media when I found the phrase, “always be kinder than you feel.” I thought to myself, “now THIS is a rule I can get on board with.” Have you ever known someone who had a habit of casting their emotions on other people? This is the kind of person who, when feeling low, needs everyone else to be low with them. They’re not thinking about treating others the way they want to be treated, they’re thinking about treating others the way the feel they’re being treated – again, the selfishness in our nature is brought out. But if this person instead thought about being kinder than they were feeling, maybe things could be different.
There are days where I feel anything but kind. I wake up with a heavy heart and negative energy seems to be a lot easier to deal with than positive energy. But it’s days like this that I try extra hard to be nice. I remind myself over and over to be kinder than I feel. Obviously this isn’t something that I accomplished in a day and there are times where I have failed miserably, but I like to think that as long as I keep trying, I’m accomplishing something. The other night I was so angry I could barely sleep. One of my friends was being treated with an incredible amount of disrespect by another friend, and I couldn’t handle it. I wanted to scream, to lash out, to tell the person everything they were doing wrong… but I didn’t. Instead, I sent the person a message letting them know I’m sorry for what they’re going through. I let them know that I had talked to God about them, and I hope the hurt they feel goes away. I didn’t react to anger with more anger, I reacted with kindness and compassion.
Always be kinder than you feel.
Over these past few days, the topic of forgiveness has been strangely present in my life. Whether it’s a topic being discussed in class or something brought up over the course of a conversation with friends, I’ve noticed it lingering for quite some time. I’m currently taking a Pakistani Literature course, so there’s obviously a lot of talk about the Partition and the life of people in Pakistan and India. A few days ago, we watched a short documentary about a girl who’s father and uncle tried killing her for marrying a man without their permission – they shot her and threw her in the river because she had disrespected them and “tarnished” the family name. As this young girl who had just been traumatized and severely injured began seeking justice for what had been done, she was coerced into publicly forgiving her father and uncle, which, according to Pakistani law, meant they were innocent and free to go. Later on, the young girl said these men were forgiven in the name of the law, but they would never be forgiven in her heart.
These situations are never easy. As a devout Christian, I believe very strongly in forgiveness. I believe the only reason I am able to live the way I do is because I have been forgiven. But what do you do when someone tried to kill you, or if someone hurt you in a way that was irreparable? Do you forgive them? Is it possible to forgive them? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer… everybody reacts to things differently and everybody believes in different things. But I think grudges hold you down and put a weight on your heart that can become detrimental to growth.
Maybe some people don’t deserve forgiveness, but the world would be a much different place if everyone got what they deserve. I believe in the power of letting go – what’s been done can never be undone and you may always be left with a scar to remind you of what has happened, but until you let go, you’re picking at a scab that’s trying to heal. You’re making the process last longer and become more painful.
Wish people the best, even if they’ve given you the worst. Send a prayer or a good thought their way, and let go.
This is the excerpt for your very first post.
My name is Erin and I am a lover of all things travel, writing, and dreaming, though not necessarily in that order. I am a college student with no prospects of becoming the next Ernest Hemingway or any other famous writer, and I don’t foresee myself leaving as large of a mark on the world as Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. I do, however, want to leave something. So maybe that’s why I’m writing now. Perhaps the words I leave behind, be it on page or online, will stick and that will be my way of changing the world – even a little bit.
There is not a lot to who I am because chances are, I am just like you. I feel passionately about many things, such as the power of an educated mind, the love of a broken heart, and the beauty of a simple thing. I have dreams and aspirations, both realistic and unrealistic. I am very good at contradicting myself and I often get lost when telling a story. I love meeting new people and trying new things, and I am a firm believe that the best things in life happen just beyond your comfort zone.
I will talk a lot about life and share quotes and stories that I hope will encourage you one way or another. I hope there are times where you disagree with what I say, because that means you are thinking critically about the words of others, and that’s great. I also hope there are times where you agree passionately with what I have to say, because that means you are feeling passionate, and that is wonderful. But most of all, I hope that no matter what, at the end of the day, you are left with a constant reminder that it is always a good day for a good day.