I’ve been spending a few days away at the ocean and as I sit here looking out at this breathtaking creation, I am reminded of a beautiful old hymn that remains in my mind from somewhere in the recesses of my childhood memory. You know there is usually a story behind every good lyric and I love the story behind this timeless hymn.
It was 1917 and the author of this song was down on his luck having lost everything in a business venture gone wrong. His current means of making income was working as a manual laborer in a California packing plant loading lemons and oranges in to crates day in and day out. While packing the citrus fruit the words of this ageless love song began to drop into his heart and mind and when he got home he hurried to get them down on paper. He sat at his piano and arranged the words with a melody that fit them just so. However, he had only two verses and for a great hymn, you need at least three. Who knew?!
He struggled to complete the song, but nothing came to him…UNTIL…he remembered an old poem that someone had given him, which he hunted around for and found on a card that he had been using as a bookmark. He was thrilled as he read and knew he had the completion of this God song in his hand.
At the bottom of the card was a note that explained where the words were found. They had been found written on a prisoner’s wall in a mental ward over 200 years before. It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated or if the words were original or he had heard them somewhere and decided to put them in a place where he could easily be reminded of the greatness of God’s love. Whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell, where they were found by the men who had the job of cleaning and repainting his cell after he had died. These precious words were captured by those men before their paint brushes erased them.
Frederick M. Lehman went to his piano and put the words he had just found to the melody he had already written and they were a perfect fit! That verse found on the wall of an insane asylum is now the third verse in the timeless hymn titled, “The Love of God” and it reads like this:
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Tho stretched from sky to sky.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints and angel’s song.
Looking at the ocean today reminds me of this beautiful song and the story behind it encourages me with these truths.
- God shows up in our less than ideal situations, He speaks to us in the ordinary, in the mundane, in the less than ideal things we go through in life.
- God always has a plan, he writes our stories and connects them with others, in ways we can’t imagine and often times don’t even realize.
- God’s love is so powerful that it can reach a soul that is imprisoned, near death and battling for their sanity. God’s love can break through the deepest, darkest pit!
I am thankful for the awe-inspiring ocean that reminds me of the greatness and vastness of God’s amazing, mind-blowing love for you and I!