strong class=”blu”>Hymn Histories : I can only imagine
Written by : Bart Millard
This hymn was written by Bart Millard, founder of the Christian band MercyMe.
It is surprisingly difficult to find the stories behind more modern Christian hymns. Perhaps most stories are only told by others looking back at a hymn writer’s experience? It certainly can’t be because modern writers don’t experience the same grief and pain, comfort and wonder that our older hymn writers did – as we can see from today’s story
Bart Millard says that he wrote his song in only a few minutes but that it took at lifetime of chaos, heartache, abuse and broken relationships to craft which makes it all the more surprising when you hear the words of the first verse, which take us straight to the gates of heaven and asks the question ‘What will it be like the first time we see His face?’
I can only imagine what it will be like When I walk by Your side I can only imagine what my eyes will see When Your face is before me I can only imagine
So how did Bart get to that point, from the background he had where to call his home life rough is an understatement? His father physically and verbally abused him on multiple occasions throughout his early life, making his life a misery. The only constants in Bart’s life were his faith and his music, anchoring him in the deep love of a heavenly Father who was so different from his earthly one. But despite that, the weight of a broken relationship with his father haunted him.
Bart left home to follow his love of music and had nothing more to do with his father. It was only when his father was diagnosed with cancer that they eventually were brought closer together. Bart was amazed to see first-hand how dramatically his dad had changed after he too had come to trust in the Lord as his Saviour. He says, ‘I got a front row seat to see this guy go from being a monster to falling desperately in love with Jesus. He was like the godliest man I’d ever known.’
When his Dad died, Bart was left with the assurance that he had gone to a better place where there is no crying, or pain, or tears. This led him to write this song expressing what it would be like when he was reunited with his earthly father where they could rejoice together before their heavenly Father:
‘Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.’
Isn’t it wonderful to know that we will be reunited with our loved ones who have died trusting in His redemptive love and that we will be able to sing hallelujahs together before the throne?
And is it not also a challenge to us to be bold and to make sure we share this best news of the gospel with our families, our friends, our work mates so that they too can be there
I can only imagine: Bart Millard