The story of ‘O Perfect Love’

Special to The Mountaineer
By Lucy N. Adams | Feb 12, 2013

Many years ago when I was in the eighth grade, the highlight of February was looking forward to Valentine’s Day. At the end of the day we had the party and passed out those special little envelopes. Would I get as many as my best friend received? Would a certain boy send me one?
On the Feb. 14 page in my 1948 diary, I wrote about a great event: “Got cute valentines from Don and Ernest.”
With red ink I circled each of their names with a heart. But they were very short-term boyfriends.
In the years that have passed, my husband, Woody, and I have expressed our love in many valentines. On our wedding day, June 10, 1955, at the Lake Junaluska chapel, we took those sacred vows, “to love and to cherish ‘til death us do part.” 
One of the hymns we chose to be sung was “O Perfect Love.” Since it is in many hymn books, it is also sung during other church services because we are singing about the perfect love of God. He is the one who guides all followers of Jesus into the love that is perfect in His sight. His love flowing through us gives all relationships that joy that passes human understanding.
Amazingly, “O Perfect Love” was written because of a very important wedding in England in 1883. The composer, Dorothy Frances Gurney described her composition this way:
“We were all singing hymns one Sunday evening, and had just finished, ‘O Strength and Stay.’ The tune was a special favorite of my sister’s.  Someone remarked what a pity it was that the words were unsuitable for a wedding. My sister, turning suddenly to me, said, ‘What is the use of a sister who composes poetry, if she cannot write me new words for this tune?”
Dorothy continues, “I picked up my hymn-book and replied, ‘Well, if no one will disturb me, I will go into the library and see what I can do.’ After 15 minutes I came back with a hymn, ‘O Perfect Love,’ and there and then we all sang it to the tune of the hymn we had just sung. It went perfectly, and my sister was delighted saying that it must be sung at her wedding.” (Handbook of The Baptist Hymnal 1992).
“Oh Perfect love, all human thoughts transcending, lowly we kneel in prayer before thy throne. That theirs may be, the love, which knows no ending. Whom Thou forevermore dost join as one.”
Our God, who is perfect Love, shows us how to grow into loving relationships. It may seem strange to think of a valentine from God, but in a simple explanation that is what John 3:16 proclaims. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever, believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Jesus is not our valentine, of course, but He shows us what perfect love is all about.
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