Have Thine Own Way, Lord: Lessons from a Hymn

by Tiffany Dickerson

As a little girl, I remember church attendance on Sunday evenings was non-negotiable in my family.  I’m sad to say my attitude about it wasn’t always the best. We had already spent all morning there, and I was less than excited to spend my evenings there as well. Filed away in my brain are a few occasions when I didn’t mind. One of those occasions was Hymn Sing night. Basically, the Baptist equivalent of open mic night in the 90’s, the worship pastor would stand at the front ready for parishioners to shout out their favorite hymn number and then lead us through the stanzas. The pastor’s wife, who also filled the role of pianist, sat on her bench, ready to rifle through the pages of the hymnal and begin the opening cords of the chosen hymn.

I’m not sure why I enjoyed those evenings so much. It could have been the musty pews in the old chapel or the sound of the gold tipped pages of the hymnal turning or even watching some of the sweet old ladies yell out their favorite hymn with gusto. As an adult, I look back and think the reason I loved it wasn’t so much the pomp and circumstance of it all, but the beauty of the words we sang. The words that still resonate in my heart and mind to this day as those long remembered lyrics point me back to Jesus.

Hymns tend to get a bad rap. Some people think they are old, boring, out of touch, and music for the days gone by. But what if hymns aren’t any of those things? What if we avoid hymns not because they are archaic, but because they are filled with rich theological truths we would prefer to leave on a dusty old pew shelf. What if the truths of Scripture found in their stanzas bring conviction and repentance, joy and peace? One of these hymns that has been on repeat in my mind lately is Have Thine Own Way. Here are a couple stanzas…

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! 

Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after Thy will;

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! 

Search me and try me, Master, today!

Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,

As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Written in 1902 by Adelaide Pollard, this song is based on Jeremiah 18 and the parable of the potter. Adelaide had hoped to go on the mission field but wasn’t able to raise the funds necessary. Through her discouragement she saw that God could still use her and have His way with her life. Her earthly dreams weren’t fulfilled but those paled in comparison to whatever plan the Lord had for her. She would serve wherever He chose to use her.

It is easy to sing this hymn and not think about the implications of what we sing. On the surface we, of course, want God to have His way. He is the God of the universe. But do we really want to be molded and shaped into a vessel God uses? In our instant gratification, just do you world, do we really want God’s way? Pride tells us that we can have it all, do it our way, and we can love God on the side. But God wants humble hearts, yielded, waiting, still, and wholly His. He desires to take the clay of our lives and mold us into something beautiful for His purpose. “Have thine own way, Lord,” means laying our pride and our desires on the altar. “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God” (Psalm 51:17). It is in our broken hearts and crushed spirits that God does His most beautiful work. It is there we willingly submit and say, have your way, Lord. 

Yielding to God ultimately means giving our lives to Christ. Not just our Sunday mornings or evenings. Not just those times we need Him to get us out of something difficult or uncomfortable. He wants our hearts and minds filled with His Spirit and living a life on mission for Him. Only Christ can wash us whiter than snow through His sacrifice. It is Christ who takes away our sin and presents our new heart to God, ready to be molded into His will. Our hearts then cry as David says in Psalms, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24). The way everlasting will always be God’s way: yielded, still, and bowing humbly in His presence. 

As I think back to that little girl in the pew, there are a lot of things I would love to tell her. But if I could tell her only one thing, it would be this: Let God have His way with you, for there is no better way to live! Through life’s mountaintops of joy and valleys of suffering, God’s plan for our lives is always better than anything we could ever dream or plan. He knows what we need when we need it and where He can use us most effectively. Wherever God chooses to use His children, may we all be willing vessels ready to be molded on the Potter’s wheel. And one day, when He has completed His work in our lives, and we see Him face to face, may those left behind say we were His exquisite masterpiece. We lived our lives with open arms that said, no matter what may come, “Have thine own way, Lord!” 

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