Friday, June 12, 2009

"This" as a Divine Pronoun

I've been doing a practice lately of singing for 15 minutes a day from Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal, choosing hymns that speak to whatever lessons I'm working on at the time. One that has been of great comfort and inspiration lately is #251, "If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee." As with many of the songs in the FGC hymnal, I suspect the words have been changed to eliminate gender bias in reference to the divine.

If thou but trust in God to guide thee,
And place thy confidence within,
God will give strength, whate'er betide thee,
To give thee hope and strength within.

Here, the same word appears as a rhyme with itself, which jars my sensibilities as a songwriter, and leads me to wonder both about the original text and about about what language reflects my own experience of God. "In Him" would make a nice near-rhyme to "within," but doesn't fit my experience. I generally don't mind female or male language for the divine, but my feeling sense of God is as a presence, an energy that is not limited by personification or gender.

So what has come to me to sing is, "And place thy confidence in This." Already, the song feels much stronger to me, a clearer encouragement to trust God to accompany me through any situation. "This," to me, is not the reliance on God's guidance, but a rich pronoun that conveys my sense of God's presence and availability. The initial "th" of "This" shares the familiarity and intimacy of "thee/thou/thy/thine." I think the capitalization works to mark "This" as a divine pronoun, not just any old this-or-that.

How does "This" fit with thy experience?


At November 26, 2009 at 8:20 PM, Blogger Jay T. said...


For months, "This" didn't fit with my experience. But I continued to reflect on it, despite my inkling that it would syntactically fit in very few sentences where I could refer to God.

This morning's blog entry (, the first I've written in months, finishes with a sentence where "This" fits. I linked it to your post.

I like This for its immanence. God is right here, right now.

At April 1, 2011 at 1:34 PM, Blogger Eric H-L said...

Your explanation of why you wanted a new pronoun speaks my mind. There is something I read 25 years ago by Thomas Merton. I can't remember it clearly. He wrote something about people who experience This can't alway find the words to explain but can wink to someone else who also knows.

For me this much needed pronoun is like a wink or like the proverbial finger pointing at the moon. (don't look at the finger!)

I was trying to thing of examples of usage and the first thought to come to me was "Jesus loves me?... This I know!


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