Six Degrees of Separation

Busy schedules plague all of us. Between school, homework, tests, kids, spouses, family, and all the rest it is easy to get so caught up in the work of today that we forget how our circumstances today may be the very thing that connects us to someone else tomorrow.

Perhaps you have sung the song “Jesus Loves Me” as a child or maybe you have sung it recently with children at church. Did you know it was written in 1860?! When it was first written it was not a song, but a poem in a book. Who knew?

“Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”  Those words were written by Anna B. Warner in her book Say and Seal.  Not many today are aware of this book but it was a best seller.  “Jesus Loves Me” is written as a poem in the book being read by Mr. Linden, one of the characters, to Johnny Fax, a dying child, as a means of bringing comfort to the child.  In its original form the verses are:

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, “Let them come to Me.”

Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.

 Jesus loves me! Loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill,
That I might from sin be free
Bled and died upon the tree.

(This verse if found in the original text of the book Say and Seal)

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Anna’s father was a successful lawyer who lost everything in the Great Depression. The family had to leave the city and move into a home they owned near West Point Academy. Anna and her sister, Susan, began writing for the income it provided. Along with her writing, Anna also taught Bible studies at the Academy for the cadets. Her books, her poems, her classes, and her hymns were all an extension of her love, life and legacy.  Her influence at the academy was so great that she is the only citizen that is buried in the West Point Cemetery.

Ms. Warner’s story is a tragedy that God turned into a victory.  It was the financial crisis of the day that brought her to the place where writing and teaching became a necessity.  If writing had not become necessary the words we have all sung and loved so much may never have been penned.

All throughout scripture there are examples of God taking tragedies and turning them into victories. The stories of Joseph, Esther, Ruth, and Lazarus are all reminders of God taking what appears at first glance to be horrific and taking it to a victory that none could have imagined.

God still connects tragedies to victories.  May 2, 2009 Annie Brown went to heaven to meet the Jesus that she loved so much.  Annie lived a very short life.  She had just turned six when she went to meet Jesus.  But that very short life had a very large impact on the lives of doctors, nurses who met her.  Annie’s favorite song was “Jesus Loves Me”.  She sang it every morning to the nurses and doctors who were treating her brain tumor.

In the midst of painful shots and treatments Annie would say to the staff, “It’s okay that it hurts.  I love you.”   She knew what unconditional love for others looked like. When she talked about her illness Annie would say, “Jesus might heal my head booboo but if not I will just go to heaven and make beaded necklaces for him all day long. I just love Jesus!” She knew what unconditional love for God looked like.

On May 7 almost 400 people gathered in Harrington, DE to celebrate Annie’s short life.  Her physician’s assistant said, “Annie fought cancer with courage. But that will not be her legacy.  Her legacy will be the unconditional love she gave us (the hospital staff) everyday.  Annie’s voice saying, “I Love You!” will long be in our hearts.  Annie, we will pass it forward.”

Her service ended with the congregation singing “Jesus Loves Me”.  Who could have imagined that what was written as a poem in a book to comfort a dying child  in 1860 would be the testimony of a child with a brain tumor in 2009?  “Jesus loves me this I know”; words of comfort for us to claim and for us to share.  Pass it forward.

Gayla Parker has served for over 30 years in ministry in various roles. This fall she will be joining the staff of Ouachita Baptist University teaching Women’s Ministry. She is the author of two books and a contributing writer for the revised The Devotional for Women coming this fall. She loves being in God’s Word, sharing Jesus, running, and spending time with family and friends.

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