The familiar tune began as we opened our hymnals and fixed our eyes on the screen at the front of the sanctuary.
“I’d rather have Jesus …” we began to sing, “than silver or gold. I’d rather be his than have riches untold.”
Suddenly my voice caught in my throat and I couldn’t sing the words. I couldn’t say the next lines: “I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands; I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.”
That is, I couldn’t say them and mean them.
By the time we hit the chorus —
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
— I wasn’t singing anymore. I was mouthing the words because, you know, what if somebody noticed that I wasn’t singing this venerated hymn?
I wasn’t singing because there are a whole lot of things right now that I’d rather have than Jesus, and I don’t say that carelessly or to cast doubt on my salvation. It’s just where I’m at.
What would I rather have than Jesus? It’s not really about kingdoms or “vast domains” as the song says. Heck, I’d take a little control over the domestic domain inside these four walls.
Some days, I’d rather have a little extra spending money than Jesus. Oh, man, even typing that out makes me feel petty and selfish. Some days, I’d rather have coffee than divine strength. Some days, I’d rather have a life plan I can see and control. Or a house. Or a reliable car. Or a thinner body. Some days, I want what most people want: a healthy marriage, well-behaved kids, a clean house. Some days, I really want what our neighbors have: a nice big camping trailer and the vacation time to take it to exciting places. Every time the truck rolls by with the trailer in tow, I can feel the envy rising in my heart.
If only the song had stopped there, I might have been able to deal with my inability to sing. But it went on.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name
Men’s applause. Worldwide fame. OK, I probably don’t really want those things, either. But I do spend a lot of time fantasizing about my first novel or seeing my name in print again. And again. And again.
In the long run, this is my prayer — I’d rather have Jesus than anything else — but daily I battle. Who or what will be most important in my life?
Tell me I’m not the only one. Tell me you’ve done this — stopped singing because you didn’t feel the words or mean them. Tell me I’m normal. Or tell me I’m not.
Tell me. Is there anything you’d rather have than Jesus?