“Low in the gravy lay Jesus, my savior. Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord. Up from the gravy arose with a mighty triam for his foes…” When I was still too little to read a hymnal, that’s how I heard the old Easter hymn. Of course, the hymn actually says, “low in the grave he lay” and that he arose with a “mighty triumph o’er his foes.” I have to confess that when I learned the real words to the hymn I was a little disappointed. As a child, I had trouble dealing with the gruesomeness of the crucifixion, but lying around in a coffin full of gravy–that was something I could sympathize with. I felt so bad for Jesus. And when he rose out of the gravy, I felt a thrill of victory. As for the “triam,” I had a visual image of something akin to an EMP blast that flattened all the foes. (I did ask what a foe was, but somehow didn’t think I needed to ask about the triam.)
Years later, I was driving my four children to church on a Sunday, and my seven-year-old daughter asked from the backseat, “Mom, what does y-e-a spell?” She was reading to her little brother from her Gideon New Testament she’d received at school. I don’t know exactly how they managed to give out the Bible in public school, but she had one. Now, she had a nice children’s picture Bible that we had bought for her, but she was excited about the little New Testament. Probably because it was bright orange. I told her what y-e-a spelled and heard “Yay! Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I managed not to laugh and praised her for her excellent reading.
Children sometimes misunderstand verbiage because they’re inexperienced, but that doesn’t mean God can’t work in their hearts and minds. Even though I didn’t understand the words of the hymn, I still had the right idea, and my daughter’s version of the twenty-third psalm is, to this day, the best I’ve ever heard.