Saturday evening Jenna and I went to the Princeton University Chapel for a concert being put on by the PU Chapel Choir. I heard for the first time Charles Wesley’s “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown,” which resonated with me deeply and I have been unable to get out of my head since. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any renditions online that I like. None of the tunes seem to capture the solemn ethos of Jacob’s wrestling (of my own wrestling) with God like the PU Chapel Choir did. Here are the lyrics for those who are unfamiliar with it:
Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown
Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown,
Whom still I hold but cannot see;
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with thee;
With thee all knight I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.
In vain thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold:
Art thou the man that died for me?
The secret of thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
Till I thy Name, thy nature know.
Tis love! Tis love! Thou diedst for me,
I hear thy whisper in my heart.
The morning breaks, the shadows flee;
Pure universal love thou art.
To me, to all, thy mercies move,
Thy nature and thy Name is Love.
One thing the Church tends to struggle with in my opinion, and perhaps always has, is honoring the wrestling. Wrestling is somehow seen as inappropriate. Jesus is supposed to be our loving friend, the one we can know and trust. And I don’t doubt that he truly is this for some of us. But for others of us, Jesus has not approached us this way. For us to approach him this way would not be to approach him, but to chase a mere Feuerbachian idol. To us Jesus comes as the traveler unknown, whom we hold but cannot see, and with whom we must wrestle through the long night in the hope that day will break, and we his name and nature will know.
We should sing this kind of song more often.