It was an ordinary morning in Grade 7 when Mr. Martin straightened the clear sheet on the projector and said something like, “This song is a little different in that it doesn’t have the normal rhyme scheme, but I think it’s still a rich, profound song.” We sang it then, round-faced children on the edge of adulthood, taking ourselves a little too seriously. Mr. Martin was right. Full of allusion and word pictures the text called me to confession and worship.
1. How deep the Father's love for us How vast beyond all measure That He should give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure How great the pain of searing loss The Father turns His face away As wounds which mar the Chosen One Bring many sons to glory. 2. Behold the man upon the cross My sin upon His shoulders Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice Call out among the scoffers It was my sin that held Him there Until it was accomplished His dying breath has brought me life I know that it is finished. (S. Townend)
Later, in my early twenties, the song touched my life again. I first shared that story here. It’s worth re-sharing.
It was April 2016. I and my teaching assistant intended to join our youth group on their chorus tour to the states, which meant I needed to find substitutes for both of us. The list of instructions for them was eight sides long–typed. I wasn’t used to surrendering my classroom. We also had dress rehearsal that Tuesday night, and I ended up helping with the bulletins last minute.
With my personality, I should have been stressed. “Except, God’s peace kept me. Wednesday evening I decided I would just be late for our last practise. I hadn’t missed or been late for one yet.
“When I got into my car to go to practise, I listened to the only consistently Christian radio station in our area. . . . I was pleasantly surprised to hear “Prayer of the Children.” I was delighted to realize that it was the a-cappella men’s group from my area singing. ‘Thank-you, Lord,’ I prayed.”
My route took me passed Conestoga Lake. The sun blazed pink across the waters, and I breathed, “God, I see You.”
“The song on the radio changed to a Celtic, instrumental-only version that I had never heard before of ‘How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.’ As I listened to the song, the well-known lyrics played in my head. Different parts of the verses had different instruments in focus to match the text. Somewhere in the middle of the second verse the song dissolved into static. After scanning the CD in my player and a local news station and not finding anything worth listening too, I turned my stereo off.
“What happened next, can be called crazy or divine.
“In the stillness of my car, I heard the last verse of the song. The verse that had dissolved into static and should have been long played out. A verse with pipes emphasizing the phrase, ‘Why should I gain from His reward?’ and a final flourish on ‘His wounds have paid my ransom.’
“I double-checked the power. It was turned off. I listened to the humming of my car, but the song was disconnected to the car’s rhythm. Then, in the stillness, I let it play all over again in my heart.”
3. I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no power, no wisdom; But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer; But this I know with all my heart – His wounds have paid my ransom. (S. Townend)
I’ve never heard that version of the well-loved hymn again, maybe never will; but that final verse still rings true. These days, I’ve been given the opportunity to step into ministry in small and fitting ways, but with that I’ve found new depths to my own humanity and sinfulness. Given the opportunity to share my music, I want to grasp it, to fix it, to only release it when I know it will be fully appreciated. Deep down, I know the perfect moment will never come, that hanging on would make me the servant who buried my talent until my Master’s return.
Preparing for a weekend with young women where I intend to lead a discussion on relationships, I find my pride bristling at the being told what to do by a friend. I find myself wanting to run and hide from hard conversations. I am tempted to hold back when I should reach out.
Even now, I am reminded that Jesus has ransomed me, that Jesus moves in me, that His perfect love will cast out every fear I bring to Him.
I’m learning that we serve best in that space between our own abilities and God’s impossibilities. Sometimes, He calls us to lean heavily in His direction, and that’s terrifying; but I suspect, that’s just where God wants us, leaning into Him and learning to trust the Father and the Chosen One and His Spirit within us–one day at a time.