We’ve all come across people in our lives who inspire us, provoking us to “step up.” Learning about the life of Fanny Crosby, one of history’s most prolific hymn writers, has been one of those inspirational people for me. She accomplished more in her first fifteen years than I have in my whole lifetime! By 15, Fanny had memorized the four gospels, the Pentateuch, the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms! Sometimes, I forget people’s names shortly after having been introduced to them! Then, Fanny went on to write around 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, four published books of poetry, several cantatas, patriotic songs and poems, and autobiographies. And, did I mention that she was blind since she was six weeks old? Whoa! Talk about inspiring people!
Until you walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, you really can’t tell how you will respond in similar circumstances. While I pray it’s not how I would respond to facing a life of not being able to see the beauty around me, I’m afraid that I might just sit around feeling sorry for myself and let people help me—probably too much. Not Fanny Crosby! Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she said, “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation.” She thanked Him?! She explained, “If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow, I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” Wow! I can only hope that I might respond to disabilities with such positive feelings.
In 1820, Fanny’s father died when she was just six months old, but she was blessed to have a very supportive mother and grandmother, who encouraged her memorization, her writing, and her musical talents. Then, at age 15, she entered the New York Institution for the Blind, where she was a student for eight years and later a teacher.
Franny Crosby (who lived 94 years) was well-known during her lifetime. At age 23, she became the first woman to speak in the U.S. Senate, when she read a poem in support of education for the blind. She knew all of the presidents in office during her lifetime, including Grover Cleveland, who transcribed several poems that Crosby dictated to him. Crosby wrote so many hymns that she had to use almost 200 pseudonyms, as publishers didn’t want to have such a large number of hymns written by the same person in their hymnals! But, rather than live in splendor, she chose to live in rented apartments in poor areas of New York, such as Hell’s Kitchen, the Bowery, and Tenderloin districts, and primarily saw herself as a rescue mission worker. She “gave away anything that was not necessary to their daily survival.” I tithe to the church, but enjoy living in a comfortable home. I doubt I could walk-the-talk like she did.
Although Fanny Crosby’s life itself provides plenty of inspiration, her hymns continue to feed souls today. Some of her more famous hymns include the following: Blessed Assurance (“Jesus is mine, Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine, Air of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His spirit, washed in His blood”), To God Be the Glory (“O, come to the Father thru Jesus the Son, and give Him the glory, Great things He hath done!”), Jesus is Tenderly Calling Thee Home (“Calling today, calling today”), Give Me Jesus (“Take the world, but give me Jesus”), Praise Him! Praise Him! (“Jesus, Our blessed Redeemer! Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!”), and Tell Me the Story of Jesus (“Write on my heart every word; Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard.”). It sounds like that’s how she had to learn the Bible, by writing it on her heart. How many of those hymns could you hear in your head as you read the words?
I would be so very blessed to have the strength of Fanny’s faith. She said, “When I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
What plans has God written on your heart? What is your inspiration to help you “step up” to them? God’s plans for me are certainly not lofty like those of Franny Crosby’s, but they inspire me to continue trying to “step up” to His calling.
Your friend in Christ,