Amazing Grace is perhaps one of the most recognizable tunes in America and I doubt that there is a single adult above the age of twenty who cannot at least sing the first few words. “Amazing grace. How sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me…”
With us being a few weeks into the start of the New Year, I thought it would be fitting to take this moment to draw some encouragement from John Newton, the ‘wretch’ who wrote the song. And John Newton was a wretch…at least he was at one time. No offense, John.
The story goes that in 1748, John Newton was onboard a slave ship in the North Atlantic when it was hit by a terrible and fierce storm. After the sailor who had been standing directly beside him was snatched overboard by a wave, Newton tied himself to the mast and continued to pilot the ship for nearly eleven hours. Believing he was about to die, and for the very first time in his life, he called out to God for help. When the storm finally passed and his life was spared, he believed that his rescue had been divinely inspired. For Newton it was “The hour he first believed,” and for us it is a lesson to be learned.
What do I mean?
From the song, one gets the sense that it all happened immediately and that his interior change occurred overnight. In fact, the only thing that did change immediately was that he stopped his swearing which had been ranked as the worst among a shipload of pressganged sailors (imagine how bad he must have been to achieve that ‘honor’). Instead, Newton continued his immoral behavior as well as to trade slaves for several more years and was even promised to his own ship to captain. However, at the age of thirty he fell ill and never sailed again. After the navy he got married, was accepted by the Anglican Church, and was ordained a priest in 1764. Finally, in 1773 he wrote Amazing Grace to help illustrate a sermon.
So what does this have to do with the New Year?
We’re just 13 days into January. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t kept to all of your New Year resolutions. Interior change is often a process and not an event. It takes time and perseverance. Be cheerful and patient and extend that same good will to your kids. After all, it took Newton 25 years before he wrote Amazing Grace and nearly sixteen years before one could say that his interior conversion on that dreadful night finally manifested itself from the invisible to the visible. So hang in there and just keep going forward.
A better you is good for you and those around you so stick with it and don’t give up.
Have a big resolution you’d like to share? Please post yours in the comment section.
My big resolution for this year is to get published. I’ve finished a novel and I’m hoping to start submitting it in the next month. What’s yours?