I can’t remember how old I was when these words struck me as memorable. Surely less than 10. Maybe seven, or eight. And I’d heard them sung scores of times by then. But one Sunday morning this phrase from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” barreled out of the choir loft and off the hymnal page straight into my heart, then rattled around there until I could try and make good sense of it.
I grew up in church. In the Southern Baptist Church
But even though I was present by parental command only and in way over my head theologically, “Come Thou Fount” compelled me. It contained words I was not sure of. Words like “constrained” and “Ebenezer” and “hither” and “interposed.” It was pregnant with mystery and a little bit of melancholy. I liked it, and I didn’t know why.
That phrase, “Let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee” chased me like a shadow. I’m still not sure I fully comprehend its meaning for my life, but this much I can say with certainty:
My heart wanders. Even though I know there’s nothing better for me than what my God has given. Even though I’ve tasted what the world calls its best and gone away hungrier than before. Knowing what it knows, my heart still wanders.
I long to be bound by something. I don’t want unlimited freedom. I want to be rooted. Found. Held. Fetters are not to be feared. They’re a comfort in the right hands.
Finally, it is God’s goodness more than anything that holds me close to him. Not duty. Not fear. Not compulsion. Not even habit. His sheer, unceasing goodness. It shows up in the most unlikely places and is quite simply the strongest force I’ve ever known. It’s like a magnet lodged inside my chest that keeps me coming home.
When I hear the opening notes of this hymn, I feel my heart swing open wide. Every time. Still. “Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.” Please God, do. Amen.