Journey with John
I love the praise songs that declare an intimate, comfortable relationship with God. I find them inviting. But I must confess a bias to the hymns that have stood the test of time and remain solid witnesses to the faith. I am most inspired by the awe, mystery, and largeness of God expressed in older hymns. I’m drawn to the message that speaks to the ageless Creator who is so much bigger than we can comprehend. Words to a great hymn are dancing around my head, consoling me, challenging me, pushing me. The text sings: “There’s a wideness to God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty. For the love of God is broader than the measure of our mind; and the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind.” (1854)
“There’s a wideness to God’s mercy” that demands I grow a larger faith. I found a note from a man named Travis in a book I was reading. It caused me to remember…. Travis was not someone I would ever have picked to “pal” around with. He was always too loud. I was not…. He demanded hugs. I preferred a handshake…. He was homeless and an alcoholic. I was neither…. I’m not sure I ever saw him completely sober in the two plus years I knew him. His clothes were seldom clean. He used words regularly that I would be ashamed to use…. I would never have chosen Travis as my friend, but, I discovered “there is a wideness to God’s mercy.” God sent Travis to expand my world.
There were moments he’d come and I would frown at the interruption. Sometimes, Travis came for help, other times just to talk. But, whenever he came, he always brought his full attention to the moment. As time went by I thought less about my valuable time and more about his need. “There’s a wideness to God’s mercy.” Travis never came to see me without thanking me for being his friend. It was always genuine. A few days before Travis died from pneumonia and exposure, I told him I was thankful he was my friend. I meant it. You see, all the time we were together, I was learning from him. Travis, despite his difficult life, had this amazing love and trust in God. He knew the largeness of God and celebrated it. I miss my teacher…. He was a good man. On the note I found, Travis had written the words to the hymn quoted above. I used it at his Memorial service. God sends us the most amazing people. I’m thankful for the memory and the lessons he taught me about really caring as Jesus cares. Thanks, Travis, for helping me understand, “There’s a wideness to God’s mercy.” You continue to bless and challenge me, friend….