In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear. And safe in such confiding, for nothing changes here.The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid, But God is round about me, and can I be dismayed? (Anna Laetitia Waring 1850)
But of course we do fear change, particularly the changes we can’t control. And sometimes those changes have something to do with distance. Whether we’re moving across town or across the country or to another country, change is a scary thing. Because Anna Waring is a 19th century writer, I tend to think that she is probably using “without” as a place, as in outside somewhere. But for me, “without” means that I’m going to let the storm do its thing without me, without my participation, without my involvement. As I’ve often described it, I’m going to step off the planet and let it spin on without me!
Such a disconnection is possible as long as we know that “God is round about” us, regardless of where we are and no matter what kind of storm we’re facing. Our presence with God and in God never changes. As the psalmist said, we might even “dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea” (Ps. 139:9). Even there or here or wherever, the Lord is guiding us and holding us close.
This absence of distance now helps me when my husband is off hiking in the Australian outback or the Himalayas or the Andes. But the idea has a long history with me. I needed Waring’s inspired words as a young woman leaving home, moving from South Dakota to Arizona. And I desperately needed her comfort again when I was abandoned in Boston with really no one to blame but myself.
Since childhood, this hymn has reassured me that there is no distance in God’s “heavenly love.” When we live in the Lord’s abiding presence, we’re always home.