When I was seven years old, on a frigid January night, my dad baptized me in our church baptistery. That was the night I publicly confessed my desire to follow Jesus as his disciple, my faith in his saving grace.
That night we sang my favorite hymns (yes, I had favorites at age seven). One of them was the old hymn “How Great Thou Art.” Today I learned it’s based on a Swedish poem, has been sung by everyone from Alan Jackson to Carrie Underwood, and it’s Great Britain’s favorite hymn.. who woulda thought? Growing up in a hymn-singing church, I’d always loved the rich sound of this song sung acapella by the congregation. And the lyrics touched a chord in my heart – then sings my soul, my savior God to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art.
Now, even as a 21-year-old, its not uncommon for me to misunderstand multiple meanings of words and lyrics. And quite predictably, at seven, I loved this song while sort of missing the deeper meaning of its lyrics.
As a little girl I loved art – and I had heard the creation story enough to recognize God’s artistic talents – so naturally, I interpreted this song as saying how great is your artwork, God!. I liked this, because having an easel, lots of watercolors, and a charm bracelet with a tiny artist palette on it, I fancied God and I were, like, skilled painters in the same painting class. Like God and I could go have a crazy art-making session together!
It took years – years! – of singin this song in church for me to realize the real message in this song. Yes, God is a creator, and his artwork is great, and the lyrics celebrate alone works thy hands have made… Stars, the rolling thunder.. But I think the song means to emphasize not just God’s artwork, but God himself… How great thou art!
God himself is wondrous in our eyes, which I knew on my baptism day, in part. I knew, in part, that I was giving my love and life to a wondrous artist with an incredible reputation and a greatness beyond measure.
I didn’t know that 14 years later, this greatness of God would still be my daily discovery, my constant realization and reminder against a world that rejoices in our own greatness. I didn’t know that daily I would have to step back from awe in humanity and see something much larger than myself… Someone.
God, how great thou art, how great thou art.
Today, every day, that is my soul’s song.