Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Many of you know that I grew up in the guilt-laden Southern Baptist tradition. (I ditched it in my early 20s, when I could no longer tolerate that fundamentalist, simplistic view, once I had been exposed to more serious study of scriptures and theology in my Roman Catholic college.)

I grew up loving the song, Amazing Grace. I had no problem with the opening line:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I had been reared to believe I was [as my sister and I can now shout and laugh together] “a worm and the daughter of worms.”

Then I moved along. I couldn’t believe I was a worm or a wretch.

Though it is sometimes difficult to feel in my bones, I am coming to believe that I am a beloved child of God … as the Episcopal Church rescued my sorry soul from despair.

A couple of friends have sent me this clip of a beautiful singing of “Amazing Grace.”

or view it here. (BTW, I'm a fool for bagpipes!)

I can hear it now, and I can love it again. The “wretch” term no longer grates as it once did. I think that’s because of the thinking that’s gone along with my recognizing my creatureliness. No, I’m not a “wretch” in the sense of worthless refuse. But I am only one of God’s creatures – wholly dependent on God, friends, and the church to help me work out my salvation.

Watch it, if you have about 4½ minutes. It’s quite moving.


Blogger Kirkepiscatoid said...


I sort of decided some time back to just take ownership of those kinds of words in order to redefine them. Hence, I have a wonderful Cafe Press sweatshirt that says, "I'm the wretch the song talks about." LOL

3/10/2009 7:41 PM  
Blogger Lee M. Davenport said...

No, you are absolutely not a wretch.

Just as I am coming to believe myself, you are truly loved. More deeply than you can ever fathom.

For many years, I have dealt with feelings of self-loathing, primarily because I never lived up to my parents' rigid standards and, more recently, because I committed the ultimate betrayal, coming out to them as what Dad calls a "queer" in an effort to shame and hurt. But his words don't shame and hurt. He's not my judge, and neither are the people who would deny me the right to be exactly the person God created me to be.

Your experience is so much like mine. I can change just three little words from your post and make them apply to me to a T.

Many of you know that I grew up in the guilt-laden [independent] Baptist tradition. I ditched it in my early 20s, when I could no longer tolerate that fundamentalist, simplistic view, once I had been exposed to more serious study of scriptures and theology in my [very liberal United Methodist] college.)

You're not alone. We're in the same boat with lots of people. I hope they all learn just how closely God holds them to his (her?) heart.

3/10/2009 7:50 PM  
Blogger Lee M. Davenport said...

Yes, Kirkie. We should take ownership of "wretch." Just like I've taken ownership of "queer."

Some people don't like it, but I use the latter with wild abandon. I find that the shock wears off after a short while. That's the point.

3/10/2009 7:51 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

LOL! I envy your t-thirt, KirkE!

3/10/2009 9:47 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Right, Lee. "God don't make junk," as the saying goes. Eventually, we grow up, and we decide whether to be God's beloved children ... or whether to act like trash.

3/10/2009 9:51 PM  
Blogger Cany said...

Songs written for times.

If written today, perhaps it would read:

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that
Saved a nut like me! ...

Hymns speak as much in the time they were written as of it.

Gosh... just like scripture!

Imagine that!

3/11/2009 12:51 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

LOL re: your revised lyric, Cany! But you're right.

3/11/2009 7:10 AM  
Blogger Leonardo Ricardo said...

I'm with Cany...except, of course, I like NUTS (except for the kind that are poisoness until processed)...Lord knows we've been processed and therefore poisonless (mostly).

3/11/2009 3:26 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

In the 50's & 60's Amazing Grace and We Shall Overcome were the pieces Episcopal choirs learned to prove how like, well, hip they were at least in Chicago. Bp. Stewart actually included a 'no Amazing Grace!' instruction in his notes to the rector which were sent prior to a visit. He said he at least was not a wretch!


3/13/2009 10:48 AM  
Blogger Lee M. Davenport said...

It's all about one's perspective.

3/13/2009 10:51 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

And of course, historically, the author of the hymn did count himself quite a wretch having been a former slave-trader. This is a story in a song of a man who learned he was a creature utterly dependent on God's love and how that changed him.

3/15/2009 9:46 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Good point, Christopher! I had forgotten that story. Indeed, there are times when we rightly might characterize ourselves as wretches. God knows, I have had them.

3/15/2009 2:43 PM  

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