About four decades ago, the church organist played, “Lead Kindly Light” by John Henry Newman. It was my first time hearing the tune and loved the lyrics.
The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene–one step enough for me.
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years. O’er moor…
Spiritually speaking, “Newman felt far from home.”
Even though Newman was a world class theologian, poet and novelist, Newman’s spiritual journey was incomplete. While he was one of the movers and shakers of the Oxford Movement (19th century push to move the Anglican Faith back to the apostles). Like most movements outside the Catholic Church, it had a limited lifespan. Newman writes: “I saw indeed clearly that my place in the Movement was lost; public confidence was at an end; my occupation was gone. It was simply an impossibility that I could say any thing henceforth to good effect, when I had been posted up by the marshal on the buttery-hatch of every College of my University, after the manner of discommoned pastry-cooks, and when in every part of the country and every class of society, through every organ and opportunity of opinion, in newspapers, in periodicals, at meetings, in pulpits, at dinner-tables, in coffee-rooms, in railway carriages, I was denounced as a traitor who had laid his train and was detected in the very act of firing it against the time-honoured Establishment.”
If you are at a crossroads, do as Newman sang, “lead me on.”
God desires us to exercise our free will. But, at times we need to give up control. Newman prayed , “I loved to choose and see my path; but now Lead thou me on!”
If you have ever had a “Come to Jesus” moment, it’s clear Newman had one: “Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, “I have a work to do in England.” I was aching to get home.”
John Henry stopped trying to figure everything out, for “calculation never made a hero.”
Newman knew that since he was intended for “great ends he was called to great hazards”. Even as a member of the who’s who of the Anglican Church, Newman discovered to be deep in history is cease to be a Protestant. He had to change. Since His goal was to be perfect, the change must be often.
On Oct. 9, 1845, he was received at Littlemore into the Roman Catholic Church.
Interestingly, a few weeks later he published. Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.
“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”
Dark Nights of the Soul are reserved for monks and would be Cardinals. God’s desire for all of us is to take His path blindfolded.