In the contemporary service at my church, most of the worship music is rather recent in composition. However, we frequently pick up one of the church’s great historic hymns, and rearrange it just a bit for guitar and keyboard. Not long ago, my son David, one of the younger members of the Praise Team, was scheduled to lead worship the following Sunday. The song list he chose included his arrangement of the hymn, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” If you know it, you’ll agree with me: it’s a great song!
When our secretary was compiling the word sheets for the singers, I decided to remove the third verse of the hymn: it’s the verse about dying. My motive was that since the younger Praise Team members were leading on this particular Sunday, a verse about death seemed a bit out of place, perhaps even morbid. Besides, this song was to be the last in the set, and I didn’t want worship to end on a “downer.”
During rehearsal on Thursday evening, as “My Jesus, I Love Thee” was being sung, the David suddenly stopped the group. “Hey!” he called to me where I was seated at the back of the sanctuary, “What happened to the third verse?”
Patiently, I explained my reasons for editing the song.
“But you’ve taken out the best verse!” he protested.
“Yeah,” said David’s older sister Laura. “If loving Jesus doesn’t work when you’re dying, it sure won’t you while you’re living. I mean, if Jesus doesn’t mean everything, He doesn’t mean anything.”
Corrected by this obvious wisdom, and sufficiently humbled by my children, I willingly reinstated the verse; because, now that I thought about it in light of what I had just been told, it really is the best verse of the song.
Not long after that, I stood at the hospital bedside of a precious 92-year-old Christian, who after decades of trusting Jesus, said confidently to his doctor and his family, “I just want to go home and be with Jesus.” Though we weren’t quite as ready to let go of him as he was to lay hold of heaven, after he said the same thing a half-dozen more times, the family agreed. The machines that had been keeping him artificially alive were gradually turned off. In less than a day he went to sleep in bed, and woke up in the arms of Christ.
In the years I knew him, he was never much of a singer, at least not in public. Still, it’s easy to imagine him singing as His Savior came to take him home, something like the third verse of that song, the best verse, the verse I’ll never edit out again.
Here’s how it goes.
I love Thee in life. I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now!”