Day 4

What Wondrous Love Is This

from the Hymns III reading plan

Revelation 5:6-14, Hebrews 12:1-2, Philippians 2:11, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 John 3:1, John 15:13, John 3:16

BY Kaitlin Wernet

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

Other than genes, I share a few distinct commonalities with my grandmother.

We both ditched our overly-Southern double names (so long, Mary Kaitlin and Mary Helen!), we were both born with a head full of chocolate-colored ringlets, and we both have a profound love for sour candy and sno cones, especially eaten together.

I also owe my band geek pride and hymn-induced teary eyes to my grandmother, who, because she’d want you all to feel like close friends, I’ll refer to by her nickname, Polly.

My childhood summers spent in her humid Florida town were marked by fishing trips and blueberry picking, vegetable chopping and frizzy hair. At the end of the day, Polly was the only one brave enough to delicately comb through my thick, tangled locks, patiently unraveling knots and twists along the way. While most hairdressers would become overwhelmed with my violent tresses and send me home with wet hair, my grandmother would methodically see the process through until my mane was just so. Even when I reached for the scissors to quickly detach an unruly gnarl, she’d tell me to put them down, assuring that the cleansing process had worked before and this time would be no exception.

I think Polly probably learned this lesson from her days as an elementary school music teacher. She would clink the keys of a worn piano, calmly teaching her students the technique of adjusting pitch and style. At the end of the class she would sit back and listen to a chorus of young voices singing her favorite hymn, washing her soul once more.

I’m sure Polly introduced her students to “What Wondrous Love Is This.” If we were in her class today, she’d probably relish the opportunity to teach us about the history of the hymn, and we’d circle around her, sitting criss-cross applesauce style. (And we’d seriously hope she had jars of her homemade pepper relish in her bag, too, because YUM.)

She’d tell us how, although the hymn has become a staple in many sanctuaries, its original author remains unknown. Because it was written in the early 1800’s, it was passed down orally from person to person, which explains the repetition of easy-to-remember lyrics. While the tune varied each time it was sung, the words remained the same. Whether sung as a haunting tune in a minor key or a cheery, major-key march, the truths are unchanging. Then, in keeping with the tradition of this truth-filled hymn, Polly would have us set our sheet music aside and sing it by heart.

She always made sure we’d go home with the important things tucked in our hearts, and most of the time we didn’t realize their value until later. When I think about all the songs I’ve memorized over the years—my ABC’s, 50 Nifty United States, the books of the Bible, the Electric Slide—I begin to see they all serve a particular purpose: instruction or inspiration. It makes me lean in a little closer to hear the truths Polly would intentionally pass along to us via “What Wondrous Love Is This.”

This hymn—a song specifically addressed to our souls, the core of who we are—reveals the simple yet vital soundtrack of our humanity: the sweet shock of our Father’s wondrous love. Our 18th century friends did what we would also be wise to do—they identified the foundational truths of their faith, and they hung on for dear life. They memorized these truths backwards and forwards, set them to music and shared them in song.

And when we sing these same words, we get to join in the same precious cycle: When we recount the wonders of the Lord’s love, it leads us to worship. When we worship, we are led back to His wondrous love. And through eternity, we’ll sing on.

What foundational truths of the Gospel do you need to sing to your soul today? Which parts of the Father’s wondrous love do you need to hang onto for dear life?

Like our favorite love song, let’s personalize these truths, set them to our own melody and pass them down.

What Wondrous Love Is This!
American Folk Hymn, 19th cent.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM –
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.SRT-HymnsIII_instagram4

Post Comments (70)

70 thoughts on "What Wondrous Love Is This"

  1. Rachel says:

    What wonderful, personal, perfect love is this!

  2. Tricia says:

    Thank you Lord for your wondrous love! The gift of your son.

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