I Am God’s Child

Music by Ron Klusmeier
Words by Shirley Erena Murray
Tune Name: STIVEN

Lyrics as Poetry

I am God’s child,
ugly and beautiful,
wayward and dutiful,
free to run wild,
I am God’s child.I am God’s joke,
played for the sport in me,
laughter’s retort in me,
born to provoke,
I am God’s joke.I am God’s cross,
fruit of creation’s pain,
blessing and fearful bane,
proof, paradox,
I am God’s cross.I am God’s sign,
hopeful humanity
touched with divinity,
learning to shine,
I am God’s sign.

Words by
Shirley Erena MurrayCopyright © 1996 by Hope Publishing Company
Carol Stream, Illinois • USA

Comments About Song

Comment by
from her book
“Every Day in Your Spirit” (#13):

“I did not intend this to be a ‘regular’ hymn.
It is an attempt to express the human paradox.”

Every Day in Your Spirit
is published by:Hope Publishing Company
Carol Stream, IL USA

A Reflection by hymnwriter

Sometimes there are songs I would especially like to ask the hymnwriter about. This is one of them. What occasioned this writing, Shirley? What child, or children, did you have in mind as you wrote? Were they old enough to talk to you about what was written? Question and challenge you? How did the first who saw these words react to them? What words delighted? Which challenged? Were there some that offended? If there were people that were offended, what was the basis of their taking offense? If some challenged you and others took offense at what you wrote, did you accept full responsibility or did you blame God? I’d have blamed God, and then said, “Thank you God. I needed this, and I think the church and the world need it too.”

If only more theologians and preachers knew that God plays with us and we are intended to play with God. That’s what a lot of hymn writing is, and lots of preaching – maybe some of the best preaching! So many “true believers” could never laugh with God. Non-believers may be even more stuck on a totally serious God, because they are totally serious about themselves. “Trust me, I’m no fool!” You can’t play if you’re angry. Remember in the story of Jonah how God caused a great plant to grow up in a night to protect sulking Jonah from the blistering heat of the sun? Then God sends a worm that gnaws on the root of the plant so that it withers and dies. Jonah, already angry because God is compassionate and not vengeful, is thrown into an even bigger sulk. God then quizzes Jonah, “Jonah, do you do well to be angry?” “Yes,” pouts Jonah, “angry enough to die!” A few of us have been there!

Read again the first verse of this hymn. “I am God’s child, ugly and beautiful, wayward and dutiful, free to run wild, I am God’s child.” Note that it is “and” not “or”. The parable of the prodigal son (more appropriately named the parable of the forgiving and restoring parent) prompts this verse. Both the prodigal and the dutiful are loved children of the parent, of God. But the world is not composed of the dutiful and the prodigal. Each of us carries each child, often at war within us, as part of who we are, who we want to be, who we don’t want to be. Another surprise, we are free to run wild. Wild with hope, trust and love. Wild with creative and healing joy.

Another question for Shirley as we come to verse two – “That’s Jonah isn’t it?” (I suggest pausing and reading the Book of Jonah, preferably out loud, and be ready to see the many points of humour – some hiding, some right out in the open. Jonah gets a call from God to travel east to Nineveh and to proclaim that the Ninevites have to change their sinful ways or perish. Nineveh. Hopeless.

Travel east? Jonah goes west. Big, big storm. The sailors pray. Jonah sleeps.

The sailors do everything they can for this unknown runaway prophet. It’s obvious they should chuck him overboard. Jonah has a moment of nobility and urges them to throw him into the sea. Why not jump, Jonah?

Jonah is swallowed by the big fish God has sent along. Great place to wake up. Jonah remembers and then sings a Psalm. A big belch. Jonah’s on the dry sand and the fish seeks something more appetizing.

Out of a time of exile, God expects that the prophet will be smarter. Orders confirmed. Jonah preaches and delivers THE WARNING. The Ninevites hear – from king to the cattle in the fields its sackcloth and repentance time. God smiles and forgives. Jonah sulks. God tells him to suck it up and join the celebration

Jonah is God’s joke. So is love that reaches out to the forgotten and the condemned. So is hope when the cynics see nothing but conspiracies and people taking advantage, and the ship going down. So is water to wine, listening to the wise woman of Samaria at the well, kneeling to wash feet, dying and rising. So is what we’re called to be – fools for Christ’s sake.

Verses three and four flow into each other. Those who have parented, guided, mentored, carried responsibility for others will most easily, but not comfortably, understand what is said, particularly in verse three. Creation’s pain refers to the alienation that will occur in every relationship, every family, every group. It is the dance between dependence, independence and interdependence. It is leaving the nest and not wanting to leave. Wanting to see the move out and away and dreading that time’s coming. It is wanting exploration and risk yet needing security and home. It is learning and hurting and knowing great joy. It is also dealing with what we have no control over.

I am God’s sign:
hopeful humanity
touched with divinity,
learning to shine,
I am God’s sign.

O that every child born might be born into that grace and truth. That they might know it as they grow in family and community. That they might, in whatever circumstance they find themselves in, never lose the reality and promise of these words.

O that I might live this day within this reality, treasure it in my heart and live it in my words and actions.

An Activity: Regardless of your age, go play with someone. And, if you can manage it, laugh until – well, until whatever happens, happens. Then laugh some more. To the glory of God. (If you can’t physically be with your playmate, phone or use social media.)

Audio Sample for
"I Am God's Child"

Shirley celebrated her 80th birthday in 2011. Prior to her actual birth date, a small group of us here on Vancouver Island got together to make a very informal recording of a few of the many titles on which Shirley and I had collaborated over the years. We were an all-ages, ecumenical group. Some sang parts, some sang unison melody, some simply closed their eyes and listened. "I Am God's Child" was one of the selections burned onto a personal 'Happy Birthday, Shirley!" CD which was sent with much affection from Canada to New Zealand.

Scripture References

  • Jonah
  • Matthew 19:13-15
  • Luke 6:35-38
  • John 1:1-5
  • John 10:13
  • Romans 8:14-17
  • Galatians 3:24-29
  • 1 John 3:1-2

Season, Theme
or Subject

  • Children∶ music about
  • Children∶ music for
  • Hope
  • Intergenerational

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