O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
I remember the first time I swam in the Gulf of Mexico. I was a tall teenager, but the waves were still high enough to knock me over and I remember tumbling into the surf, surrounded by sensations of sand and air bubbles and the current dragging at me: a growing need to breath and not remembering where the sky was.
Another memory of the ocean: a trip to Florida with Campus Crusade. Our coach bus got in after dark. As I first entered the 12th floor condo, the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves called to me from beyond the open sliding doors on the far side of the living room. I walked out onto the balcony and suddenly couldn’t breath, hit by the tremendous roar of the waves as they crashed below on the beach. To my right and left, hotels and condos lined the shore, their lights casting a glow into the sky and the water a short distance out. But after that: darkness and only that sound that reminded me of the power and cruelty of the ocean. Not able to see the horizon or the stars, I felt like my balcony was on the edge of the earth. I was utterly overwhelmed.
The words of the hymn O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus evoke these memories in me. They are an attempt to capture all the vastness, the power, the unchanging and indescribable awesomeness of God and convey that with Him this power does not manifest itself in cruelty or inhuman indifference as it does in nature, but in love as incomprehensible in its vastness as the ocean at night. Love as capable as the sea of sweeping me of my own two feet.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!
I chose this piece for my recording Soirée à Montpellier because we sang this hymn in my French church while I was living in Montpellier. I don’t even remember how the words go in French, but I was translating in my head anyway as we sang. In my arrangement of this hymn for the harp I attempted to capture the power of these lyrics. They’re not wimpy words, not soft or even very reassuring. They speak of Jesus’ love more like a power of nature, or like gravity, than like the fragile thing we tend to think of as love.
Photos by Stephanie Claussen, at the Mediterranean near Montpellier.
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