“Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high…”
That hymn, written in the mid 1700’s by Charles Wesley, became one of the most well-liked hymns in the English language.
Music snobs criticized the lyrics. “Jesus, Lover of my soul” is too intimate in addressing the Savior, some said.
But the Scriptures depict our Savior as just that in the Old Testament Song of Songs, to say nothing of the prophets’ portrayal of God as Israel’s husband and St. Paul’s portrayal of Christ as the Church’s Bridegroom.
Critics thought the words, “Let me to Thy bosom fly,” like some endangered sparrow darting into the Lord’s embrace, was far too familiar.
Still others just didn’t understand what Wesley meant by the phrase: “While the nearer waters roll.” They changed the words to “raging waters” or “threatening waters.”
But Wesley meant what he wrote. He understood that in storms at sea, the distant waters may be lashed into a fury while the nearer waters around a given ship may be perfectly calm.
He knew that the opposite was also true. The distant waters and the ships upon them may sleep in peace while the nearer waters around one’s own boat roll and rage.
We may surely pray for those tossed on distant waters we cannot see, for those who are starving and tortured in far-off places of tyranny, for those who fight on far-away battlefields, for children in another state or another country gunned down by heartless evil-doers, for innocent souls unjustly imprisoned. We cannot see many of these stormy, distant seas, but we know they are there even while the nearer waters of our own lives may for the moment be calm and smooth.
But we pray in a far different way when the nearer waters roll, out of the depths of our own personal and immediate problems, when our own boat is tossed and battered. Then it is, “while the nearer waters roll,” that you and I need a Savior who is true Man, our very Brother in the boat with us, and a Savior who is true God, who rules the wind and waves.