It was in the midst of the Roaring Twenties in 1926 that George Gershwin composed the song “Someone to Watch Over Me” with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and titled by Howard Dietz. Nearly a hundred years later the haunting words and melody can still be heard across the spectrum of media. Most of us have heard it sung by some of the greatest singers of our time, but few of us might know it was written for the musical, Oh, Kay!, and sung on Broadway by the English actress, Gertrude Lawrence.
It was originally an up-tempo swing style tune, but by the 1930’s and 1940’s it had become a slow ballad and that continues to be the style loved by millions listening live or to one of the 1,800 recordings of the song.
Perhaps it is the appeal of the theme of the song that depicts a desire for ideal love with someone to watch over us that keeps the lyrics fresh. Despite our claims of loving to be independent, most of us can honestly admit that somewhere tucked inside is that longing to have someone looking out for us, watching over us. It promises protection, care, and safe passage through life.
I confess I love the song and the rendition in the 1995 film, Mr. Holland’s Opus, is memorable, but it doesn’t take very many years of living to face the reality that that idealized person doesn’t exist and will never be there all the time in our lives.
But that desire can indeed be met in the spiritual realm.
There is One who never sleeps, whose omnipresence allows Him to do just that.
There is One who loves us perfectly despite the mountains of imperfection each of us is permeated with.
Sometimes it is an awareness we lose sight of in the midst of daily living when it seems so much depends on us or that no one sees we are frayed and frazzled and long for that someone to watch over us. There can even be times when we are tempted to believe that this One is indifferent and doesn’t recognize the trouble we are in, but those are faulty thoughts sent by the enemy of our souls to cause us to question God’s goodness and omnipotence.
From time to time we catch a glimpse of the Lord working on our behalf, but I am persuaded that more times than not we miss it because it happens moment by moment each day in ways that are largely unseen.
If life doesn’t go perfectly for us or if we are not protected from every trouble, hardship, disease, or accident, our doubts increase. If we lose a job, hear a dreaded diagnosis, grieve through singleness or infertility, we give way to thinking no one is watching over us and that includes God whom we heard was supposed to be there when no one else was there.
Our quest to deal with that may well have sparked our interest in the popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by a conservative rabbi, Harold Kushner, published in 1981.
R.C. Sproul reminds us in this quote of something we fail to see:
“Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once, and He volunteered.”
How subtle are the temptations to see ourselves as better than we are, more deserving than we have ever been, but if we refuse to see that we miss how great is his love and how deep is his grace. We also reveal the ever-present pride that besets us.
“At its root, pride confuses our identity with God’s and makes us think of ourselves as larger than we really are.”
Hannah Anderson in Humble Roots
It is when the Lord opens our eyes to see more clearly for a moment that we are humbly reminded of how much He is watching over us in ways we cannot imagine. Some of those He doesn’t alert us to so we may not sense or see them, but sometimes He pulls back the veil over our eyes to show us something we do not see to alert us to potential harm.
Recent weeks have given our family such glimpses in ways that can only result in profound gratitude and praise.
Not many weeks ago our adult son was plagued with an eye that kept watering continuously. When it was not improving, he sought advice from his optometrist. What he could not have guessed was how that watering eye was a reminder of God watching over Him. It led to several more doctors’ that allowed him to discover a cancerous tumor was growing deep in his sinuses causing pressure on that eye that created the watering. If left undetected, the prognosis would not have been so good, but a watering eye led to a diagnosis, a cutting-edge treatment protocol, and an excellent prognosis.
During that same time my husband was slated for a surgical procedure that required a pre-op appointment with our primary care physician. He decided to do an EKG during that visit. He saw several small things he was unclear about and immediately called a cardiologist. The cardiologist did a series of tests to approve the previously scheduled surgery, but met with him after the surgery to follow-up and add one more assessment that revealed despite a strong heart, he needed a pacemaker due to an electrical issue with his heart that had not created symptoms alerting him to the problem.
These weeks were filled with so many things coming at our family that it felt like an incredible assault from every direction, a saga that included other things beyond these two. Yet, as the Lord pulled back the veil slightly, we were given the privilege of seeing there was indeed someone watching over each one far beyond what the lyrics of the famous song could include, a reminder that God is indeed good.
It reminded me of a verse in Isaiah:
“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
Isaiah 65:24 (NIV)