The Power of a Little Word

I was reading Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead while listening to the Soul Stirrers, the gospel quartet that first brought Sam Cooke to prominence, sing The Last Mile of the Way. This gospel song, written by Johnson Oatman Jr., with music by William E. Marks, is a turn of the 2oth century tune that looks forward to the experience of heaven (something increasingly absent in contemporary Christian teaching).

I’ve listened to the song many times in the past, but what caught my attention on this occassion was a little change in the second verse. As originally written the verse goes

If for Christ I proclaim the glad story,
If I seek for His sheep gone astray,
I am sure He will show me His glory,
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way.

The change in the Soul Stirrers rendition occurs in the third line where the word “in” is inserted between me and His. What struck me about the change was the fact that in the original, we are shown Christ’s glory in itself a mind-boggling concept, but in the altered version it suggests that everyone else gets to see us in Christ’s glory. It put me in mind of Paul’s “…then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1Cor13:12. Not only that but others will be able to know me as I have been fully known.

I think also about what it means to be the image bearers of God in the world. While the song talks about what we will experience when we are eternally in the fullness of God’s presence, I long for the opportunity for Christ to show me to the world in His glory in the here and now as well.

In His glory, what a difference one little word makes.


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