'Just As I Am' and its special meaning


In the middle of making banana bread yesterday I realized I was completely out of self-rising flour.  No worries, I thought, I would just make my own adding baking powder and salt.  Dragging a chair over, I searched high and low to no avail.  (Probably a good thing; I hadn’t used it in a decade.)  AND, I found that I was out of sugar.  I had to go to the store.

It had been a glorious morning of coffee and studying on the back porch.  I was not in any way ready for public viewing.  My hair was pulled back in a big clip.  Not a “sorority poof” pulled back, but an “I have GOT to get these bangs out of my eyes” pulled back.  Think about it, have you EVER seen me in public with my hair pulled back?  Exactly.  Plus, I had on my son’s Belfry Pirates t-shirt he wore as a Freshman, circa 2003.  I was a mess.

I had two choices.  I could stop banana-bread making, get a shower and shampoo my hair to be ready to go to the store for self-rising flour and sugar OR…I could go just exactly as I was.  I was leaning toward choice A.  But, if I washed my hair and dried it right before making the banana bread, there was a chance a hair-albeit a CLEAN hair-might get in the food.  (That brought back terrible, life-altering memories of 2009 when one my son’s college friends found a hair in his biscuits and gravy!)

Now, I was leaning toward choice B.  Stinking choice B.  It was the quickest.  I already had two loaves in the oven.  The other ingredients were ready.  It would only take a few minutes to fetch the flour and sugar and get the last two loaves baking.  “I’m going just as I am,” I told the ripe bananas.  I probably wouldn’t see anybody I knew, I lied to myself.  Realistically, they probably wouldn’t even recognize me!  Whew!

I grumbled the whole way to Food City. 

Grabbing keys and purse, I set a pace that would have been good for a 5K.  I saw Mike the Pepsi Man at the front door. Dadgum it!  He is a friend and comes to church.  He waved, I waved.  He probably thought I had the flu and was getting meds. 

As I made my purchases and headed home, I couldn’t help thinking of the phrase “just as I am.”  That was a blast from the past.

Back in the 1970s, “Just As I Am” (#240 in our hymn book) was the invitation for every church service I ever attended.  We sang 72 or 73 verses, whichever was needed.  I knew the words back then, but not their import. 

I did some research.  This classic, well-known hymn was written in 1834 by Charlotte Elliot.  According to many sources (aka internet sites), Miss Elliott became an invalid after a serious illness when she was in her early 30’s. tells how the song came about: “Pastor Caesar Malan, seeing not only her physical pain but also her longing for wholeness and acceptance, he gently reassured her saying, ‘Charlotte, you are loved just as you are.’”  Those words took hold.  Years later, in a time of feeling despair and defeat, Charlotte penned the words to a hymn that would linger forever.

“Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.  And that Thou biddest me come to Thee, O Lamb, of God I come.  I come.”  The modern day translation would be: “Just like I am, without a prayer, but You (Jesus) shed Your blood for me.  And then You call me to come to You!  Oh, Lamb of God I’m coming.  I’m coming to You!”  Wow!  I got chills as I typed those words!

God is God and we are not.  He knows us inside and out, bangs back or not…and STILL loves us, LONGS for us to have a relationship with Him!  We make things complicated thinking we have to get straightened up before we go to Him.  If we COULD straighten up, we wouldn’t NEED Him!

 Now I am SO GLAD I ran out of self-rising flour and sugar and had to go to the store looking frightful, even though I don’t ever plan on doing it again!  It led me to find out about Charlotte Elliot from the 1800’s and gave me a fresh view of an old hymn!

Dawn Reed is a newspaper columnist and pastor's wife in Prestonsburg. Reach her at


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