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 lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul…
to lay aside his crown for my soul.
I notice that I have been singing rather hesitantly today. For those who know me well, you can attest that I am not usually a hesitant singer. But like any voice, mine ebbs and flows with context. My context today has stretched me. On the surface, it shouldn’t be a stretch. It’s a conference and conferences certainly aren’t new to my life as a social worker, or an academic. Admittedly it is a conference with church people, many/most with collars whether or not they are wearing them, so that is something new….but it is with church people who love to do the gritty, real work of missional ministry. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’m all about gritty, real, heart-breaking open work. And, I’m in seminary so I would hope I’ve gotten over (or at least, used to) my church people issues after being two-thirds of the way through an MDiv program following a call to ordained ministry myself. I know some people here already, and everyone that I know here is someone I like and respect. There are people here I have always wanted to meet, or hear, or talk to. And, I’ve been having great conversations with new acquaintances, too. These should all be points in favor of gustily singing, joining our voices and spirits together. But, it isn’t coming easily today.
The truth is, my soulful song isn’t one that is (as one of my seminary friends puts it) “happy-clappy” and cheerful. My heart these days is heavy with the world, with the magnitude of mission, with my life intersecting with the lives of people I know and feeling all the feelings that accompany that level of connection. I am joyful and even hopeful…deeply hopeful, actually. But this world in which I live and work and breathe hasn’t been making me smile and laugh a whole lot in the here-and-now. I’m reminded today that grittiness may be real and authentic, but it isn’t always comfortable. And, it doesn’t always make me want to clap my hands and sing.
So, this afternoon when Thistle Farms’ Becca Stevens walked up on stage in jeans, t-shirt and bare feet and asked us to sing “what wondrous love is this” before she spoke…well, that was unexpectedly the healing balm for my soul. If the song is not familiar to you, there will be a link at the end of this post for you to take a listen. It’s soulful, in a diminished key signature that rises and falls, but doesn’t allow a sinking into minor tones. It is healing…deeply, deeply healing to actually feel what it is that we are feeling. And I know that I do tend to feel the weight of the world.
As my voice found itself lost in the cadence of song, I recognized the flow of my energy changing. The world didn’t change. People are struggling, hurting. Systems are broken…so very badly broken. But love…Love…wondrous love. Love that is greater than I am. Love that binds together people who otherwise have nothing in common. Love that comes through in gestures of unexpected mercy, in the words that are spoken to us when we don’t even have the power to say what it is we are hoping to hear. Love that gives from places where we didn’t even know that there was anything to be given. I think of the story we heard today, of the “scrappy” urban church where, on Maundy Thursday, six people lovingly washed the feet of a homeless man whose socks had grown to his feet and one produced clean shoes and socks…his only extra pair…to grace the now washed feet. That, my friends, is wondrous love.
I listen as Becca told the story of the Sudanese women who grow the geraniums from which oil is extracted and used to make their products…and how the drops of that healing oil moved from the broken earth on which these women had experienced abuse to grow beautiful flowers which were pressed for oil, and how that oil worked through the hands of women recovering from their trauma to produce the product that was spilled over onto the materials that made their way into a women’s prison so that one woman could smell hope. That is wondrous love. It is love forged in brokenness, fermented in vats of messy, gritty human life, brought to fullness with the healing power of mercy and grace which flow from the spirit of divine love, “The Lord of Bliss.” I don’t even know how each person comes to know the fullness of that spirit of the living God but I believe that somehow it happens, from the smallest and tiniest drops of love, hope and grace.
Yes, my voice has found fullness. I sing with body, mind and spirit engaged. I stand on a mat, woven by Syrian refugee women from strips of cloth reconstructed from life vests worn crossing into Greece. I feel the soulful, broken hope that is the world in which we are immersed, together. I too am immersed, bathed in the radiant points of light that beckon me to move closer, love deeper, hope unabashedly.
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul…
[reflection written during the creative writing incubator, #MissionalVoices]