We learn the lessons of exclusion early — dreading gym class softball and its vicious selection process or victimization by the “gossip girls” at recess. Early damage follows us. Being shunned or mocked because of our race, class, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, or appearance, cuts deep into our psyches. Occasionally, headlines scream from the extreme edge of our common experience of carnage left in the wake of someone full of rage, stoked on hate, armed with a gun.
Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) heard the cry of life’s excluded and turned it into a gospel hymn, “PASS ME NOT, O GENTLE SAVIOR.”
QUEEN OF GOSPEL SONGS
A genuine American eccentric, Crosby was known as “the blind hymn writer,” “the Methodist Saint,” and “the Queen of Gospel Songs.”
Born in rural New York State on March 24th, Crosby was only six weeks old when she developed an eye infection. The doctor was out of town. A medical quack showed up instead. He put hot mustard poultices on the baby’s eyes, and blinded her for life.
Fanny’s Grandmother Eunice became her eyes, describing red-winged blackbirds and violets. She read aloud from the Bible so that Fanny could recite it, cover to cover. At the New York Institution for the Blind, first as a student, then as a teacher, Fanny Crosby established her reputation as a poet.
She dictated her first hymn lyrics in her mid-forties and then composed thousands more. America was experiencing a religious revival at the time. Fanny’s hymns were in great demand, but she never got rich. She took the teaching in Matthew 19:21 literally when Jesus said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” She chose to live simply, unburdened by belongings.
One evening in 1868, Crosby was visiting a prison, walking down a long aisle between cells, reciting the Bible verses she knew by heart, when she heard a man call out, “Remember me! O Lord, please don’t pass me by.”
Later, thinking back on that plaintive cry, Crosby wrote the hymn lyrics, touching our universal fear of being excluded and forgotten.
It hurts to be singled out, shunned, or shamed. When it seems like the whole world is against us, we cry to our Savior. He was once mocked and rejected. He knows our pain. Singing this hymn, again we cry, “Do not pass me by. Remember me! Remember me! Remember me!”
TO GO DEEPER
“The Life and Ministry of Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)” by Dr. Susan Stubbs Hyatt on God’s Word to Women website