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Pretty Nice Grace

How Neat you are.


grace

It’s Sunday morning and the women’s choir is belting out, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/ Which saved a child like me …” And somehow that doesn’t ring quite right. Wasn’t the word “wretch” in the old days? Then I remember all the times when people have objected to that word. After all, wretch sounds like you’re a real down-and-outer, just like those street people that we always try to avoid. So maybe the choir refused to sing it that way. But probably the sheet music just read “child.” I haven’t looked very much at the hymn book lately, but maybe it’s child there too, at least as a footnote.

And then it hits me: “If I’m a child now, and not a wretch like I used to be, maybe that changes things.” So I think, “Well, if I’m really a child, maybe I don’t need ‘amazing’ grace anymore; ‘pretty good’ grace would probably do.”

But then I think, “Well, maybe child isn’t quite the right word either. I like to think of myself as an ‘okay guy.’” So put it all together and we have something like, “Pretty good grace, how sweet the sound/ Which saved an okay guy like me …” Of course, somebody else will have to finesse the words. I’m basically an idea guy.

But then I think, “If I’m really an okay guy, and I’m pretty sure that I am, do I really need grace at all?” That’s a tough one. Maybe I need just a tiny bit of grace—sort of a hand up to heaven. So then it would be, “O teeny-weeny grace, how glad I am/ That you are all I need …” But I’m not so sure that this new improved version goes so well with the rest of the hymn. So maybe I need to pull back a little.

Come to think of it, I never much liked the word ‘sweet.’ It’s just too … sweet. To me it’s not a really nice word. Hey, how about ‘nice.’ No one can object to that. So now we’re at, “O teeny-weeny grace, how nice the sound/ Which gave a little help to a super-nice guy like me …” I know that doesn’t sound quite right, but the church has committees which look into fixing up hymns for use in church. They should be able to run with this.

Anyway the idea is that grace is important, even if we don’t really need it. But you can’t go back to saying that people are wretches nowadays. That’s just not going to fly. Why do you think that people are leaving the church?

Problem is, some people may not even know what grace means. So maybe we need to find another word that’s a little more neutral. Nowadays people think that business is the thing. Hey, they’ll never know it if you sneak a bit of Adam Smith in there. How about, “O invisible hand, how nice you are/ To help us okay guys…”

Hm … Maybe that too is getting a little off track. Let’s just go back to my favorite version. But I’m rather uncomfortable with the ‘good’ in pretty good grace. Some people may take it as too moralistic a word. How about ‘nice’ instead of good. Although I think that I’ve got one too many nices in there. I’ll just replace one nice with a ‘neat.’ So now the whole thing reads, “Pretty nice grace, how neat the sound/ Which helps out okay guys like me …” There! I’d like to see anyone improve on that! “Pretty nice grace.” I like it.

About the author

Kevin McCabe is a freelance writer.

3 Comments

  1. avatar
    Robert says:

    Greetings from Wordwise Hymns. Nicely done. “Wretched” is what we are outside of Christ. A powerful word is needed to convey our deep distress. (The Bible uses it too: Rom. 7:24; Rev. 3:17.) Watts, as well, knew that strong language was called for. “Alas, and did my Saviour bleed…for such a worm as I?” And that’s another Bible word. If we don’t understand the desperate state we’re in outside of Christ, we’ll never be able to fully appreciate grace.

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    Kevin McCabe Reply:

    Hi Robert:
    Thanks for the comment. It reinforces my point in the article. Kevin

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  2. avatar
    Ronald Nichol says:

    I fully agree with Robert. Outside of Christ I was indeed a wretch in desperate need of His saving grace. The hymns was written as a testimony of a man who recognized his own wretchedness and should stand as written.

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