If you have been around young children over the past year or two, then you are very familiar with the tune “Baby Shark.” It does not matter if you love it or hate it. Whenever you hear it, your head immediately starts bobbing, your body moves with the rhythm, and you cannot help but sing along, even if only in your head. It is the curse of “Baby Shark.”

Growing up in church, I remember singing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Zaccheaus Was a Wee Little Man” in Sister Elaine’s pre-school Sunday School class. As a young child, I learned to sing about God’s amazing grace that saved a wretch like me, even though I didn’t know what a “wretch” was. We sang that hymn, composed in 1779 by John Newton, and other hymns because that was “church music.”

As an adult, “church music” changed, and hymns like “Amazing Grace” were replaced by contemporary songs such as “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” by Keith Green and “Shout to the Lord” by Darlene Zschech. My favorite Christian singer/songwriter was Dennis Jernigan. He was not as popular as the aforementioned singer/songwriters, but his songs had a depth that resonated in my soul.

When writing my upcoming book, at times I struggled to find words to convey my thoughts and feelings. Jernigan’s songs expressing intimacy with God rose within me; memories of my dad waving his arm as we sang hymns in the little Baptist church resurfaced. The words of the songs, contemporary and hymns, became more than just “church music.” They expressed my thoughts and feelings. It did not matter if the songs were written 50 years ago or 250 years ago. Songs to which I was exposed beginning in childhood were embedded in my soul and surfaced during a time of need.

I am not simply being sentimental. This is a life lesson for parents, especially parents of young children: Expose your children to meaningful music about God, especially when they are young. The genre is not as important as the message of the songs. Hymns that have survived hundreds of years have done so because of their timeless message. Christian artists such as Chris Tomlin, Shane & Shane, and others are integrating ancient hymns into genres that appeal to this generation.

Twenty, thirty, even forty years from now, when your children are adults and possibly have children of their own, “Baby Shark” might make a comeback. Your children’s heads will start bobbing, happy memories will bring a smile to their faces, and without hesitation, they will sing, “Baby shark, do do do do do. . . .” But what will rise from deep within their soul when they walk through a difficult period in their life? It won’t be “Baby Shark.” It is then that songs they learned twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, will become personal. They will understand what it means to be a “wretch.” They will be able to say from their heart,

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

Shout to the Lord all the Earth, let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name

I sing for joy at the work of Your hand
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand
Nothing compares to the promise I have
In You

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your name!

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