Just As I Am

I’m not feeling great this week. So this morning I sat at our old rickety piano and played my favorite song from an old faded blue hymnal. It’s the song I go to when anything’s broken, a relic from my childhood that still speaks to me by giving me the words to speak to God.

When I was a little kid my family was part of a country church that sang every stanza. If it was the last hymn, maybe we’d sing them twice while the pastor urged sinners and broken saints to come. “One more time. Jesus is waiting for you. Come.”

These days, the stanza I sing the most is the fourth – the least known perhaps. It reminds me of the holistic nature of salvation, the breadth of God’s attention. Not just for the soul, but for body, mind, bank account, whatever ails me. It reminds me that Jesus has more to offer than forgiveness: All that I need.

Just As I Am was written by an invalid named Charlotte Elliot, who called it her biography in song. She was a joyful person until an illness confined her to her bed and a life of daily pain just after her thirtieth birthday.

She was bitter, angry, lashed out at God for many years. Until a minister invited her to come. She claimed that Jesus changed her life that day, though he didn’t change her body. From her bed she wrote more than a hundred hymns to her Joy, who robbed her of both sin and bitterness.

Somedays I swear I know He wants to put His healing hands on the busted pieces, to straighten the deformed flesh wherever He finds it bent, to stop the pain, to dry the tears from my eyes. So I sing. And sometimes He doesn’t. And I don’t know why. I sing anyway.

I sing sick, angry, grateful, doubting, fearful and glad.

I sing these words somedays until hot tears streak my face and my voice shakes, unable to hold the tune, until it folds into a hoarse whisper. I sing until I rest my forehead on the hymnal in exhausted silence or deep moaning mourning. I sing it other days until I grin uncontrollably, my face too deformed to annunciate the words. Somedays I’ve stopped playing and scanned the room, almost certain I’m not alone. Most days I just sing and I’m no different for it at all, except that I’ve said something to God that needed saying.

“Whoever comes to Me I will never drive away,” He says. (John 6:37) So I come, poor wretched, blind with all I need in Him to find.

Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, tho tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fightings and fears within, without
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind –
Sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need in Thee to find
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

What song speaks to you by giving you words to speak to God?