Somewhere the sun is shining,
Somewhere the songbirds dwell;
Hush, then, thy sad repining,
God lives, and all is well.
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere!
Land of the true, where we live anew,
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere!
Somewhere the day is longer,
Somewhere the task is done;
Somewhere the heart is stronger,
Somewhere the guerdon won.
Somewhere the load is lifted,
Close by an open door;
Somewhere the clouds are rifted,
Somewhere the angels sing.
Because it is well over a hundred years old, the song contains a couple of words that might be unfamiliar to us. Do you know what it means to “repine?” The song gives us a clue with the modifier “sad.” I doubt I am doing anything joyful if I am repining. No, the word means dejection or discontent.
And how about “guerdon?” The song says we “win” it, whatever it is. And if you look it up you will find the terse definition “reward.”
Obviously young Mrs. Pounds was allowing her illness to depress her, and the act of writing this song, reminding herself of the hope she had as a Christian, cheered her up. She wanted to share that hope with us.
I can already hear some of my brothers talking about how “unscriptural” this song is. Where does it say there will be songbirds in Heaven? And certainly Revelation says there is no need for sun because God is the light. May I just say this? Those literalists are missing the whole point. John’s Revelation uses figurative language to describe Heaven. If you think there will be pearly gates and streets of gold, you are just as mistaken as Mrs. Pounds. But somehow, I think she knew that; I think she was motivating herself with her own special view of what Heaven must be like.
The descriptions in Revelation are about motivators. Those first century Christians lived a day to day existence. They prayed for their “daily bread” because they had no idea if they would have enough that day, let alone tomorrow. The farmers among them existed at the mercy of the weather and natural disasters. The shopkeepers and artisans lived at the mercy of the economy. No one was going to “bail them out.”
To those people, a place so wealthy that gold and precious jewels were used as construction material, meant security. It meant rest from working long hours day after day to simply survive.
Those people lived under the rule of a foreign king. Doubtless they had all seen wars and battles. They knew, in fact, that the Barbarian Hordes could still come over the mountains and wipe them out. Did 9/11 cause you some concern? Has it made you worry more about the possibility of terrorists under every bush? Those first century Christians lived with that sort of uncertainty every day of their lives. In fact, they probably had more safety as a conquered people than ever before. But the picture of a huge city with huge walls meant safety and peace forever. Security—that is what those pictures of Heaven were all about, not materialism. I have no doubt that if John were writing to us, he would use other motivators.
Frankly, I feel we should give ourselves motivators that mean something to us personally, and we should do the same for our children. “Getting to worship God forever and ever,” translates to a child as having to go to church, listen to sermons, and sit still forever. If you think that will motivate them to want to serve God all their lives, you didn’t have any business becoming a parent in the first place.
And that is what Mrs. Pounds has tried to share with us. On a day of illness that drug her down, she went to the best place to pull herself out of it—thoughts of Heaven, the reward, the “guerdon.” Perhaps if we sang more songs about the reward, we would do a better job of gaining it.
…we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven…Col 1:4-5.