The Magnitude of “So”

February 7, 2011 | 30 comments

It’s 5:50 a.m., an hour earlier than I usually rise on a Monday.

My favorite farmer slumbers. Our blankets rise and fall with each breath. Outside, his fields hibernate under a white duvet.

And my thoughts are on one word: So.

I push back covers, fumble in shadows for my Bible, and pad to the kitchen. I make coffee, turn on the news. They’re talking about the crisis in Egypt, the Super Bowl, a fraternity shooting in Ohio.

I open the Word on the kitchen counter — Bread as breakfast. I lean over pages, and push the slipped-down glasses up the bridge of my nose to find the word: “So.”

One word. Two letters. Immeasurable love.

There it is. Right there.

“For God so loved the world …”
— John 3:16

That much. So loved.

I know these verses. I memorized them in nursery school, sitting on tiny wooden chairs, curved by the piano in the church basement. Hortense — I still remember her bluish-gray hair — bobbed her head to emphasize each word.

“God. So. Loved …”

Maybe this sounds like old news to you. But for me, it’s banner-headline material. Will someone call CNN? Does the world yet know that this — THIS! — is the antidote to the pain? Do I?

“So loved.” That much!

I read the words again, mark them in green for the first time.

Could it be I missed this all along? Could it be I missed the depth of the love?

If the Gospel were a novel, this would be the one verse on the dust-cover. If I were the author, this would be my 30-second elevator pitch.

“What’s your Book about?” they would ask.

And I could say: “Well, the main character, God, so loves this messed-up world that He does the unthinkable: He sends His only son as a gift-offering to die a painful death for a world sitting on the ragged brink of disaster. And if these people believe in the story’s protagonist, they will never die. The hero will spare them from death.”

I stare at the words. And I look at the one … single … word.


Outside, the Creator sends another day. Do I ever really notice? Is the “so” I say, most often this one: So what?

Outside the blue morning light sends darkness scampering. Snow blushes pink.

I click at the keyboard, and Google “Bible commentaries on John 3:16.”

I want to know about the “so love.” But can I ever really comprehend the depth of that love — limitless, infinite, sacrificial?

I find a piece of the answer. The commentators say the Greek word is this: houtos. The commentators say that rarely do the Bible’s authors use this one word — houtos — to convey deep emotion.

But here, God moved the pen strokes like this: οὕτως

So = οὕτως.

“He has put an eternity of meaning in the particle, οὕτως, so, and left a subject for everlasting contemplation, wonder, and praise, to angels and to men.”
— Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible

I write houtos in my Bible.

He houtos loves me because He houtos loves me. I’ve got a mind to live this day like I so believe that.

by | February 7, 2011 | 30 comments


  1. Dusty Rayburn

    I am awe struck by God who "so" loves me.

  2. Patricia

    Oh….I LOVE that insight. SO love. Thank you, Jennifer.

  3. Crystal

    What a profound post on this Monday morning. Thank you Jennifer – I needed to read this this morning – on many many different levels.

  4. Cassandra Frear

    I was there with you at the table in the early morning light while you found the message sent to you especially as a valentine in the quiet places of your soul.

    Thank you so.

  5. Rose

    Awesome…one little two letter word can pack so much into it. Great post!

  6. jaybird7

    Jennifer, thank you for bringing my attention to so much through your attention to such a small word.

    This is huge…

  7. Melissa @ Breath of Life

    I've never really thought about the so. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  8. Kelly Sauer

    And here, the obligation of God to love because He is love is called into question. Because it does not sound as if He did not choose it. It sounds as if He cannot help it…

  9. patty

    It makes me think of Paul beautiful prayer prayed for us…
    "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
    You sound full today…praise Him and be blessed! love, patty

  10. Christi

    WOW – love this!

  11. Suz


  12. Stephani

    Wonderful post Jennifer. I know I don't get his love. It's incomprehensible really. Oh, I think I do at times, there are overwhelming moments when I am breathless over what he has done for me, but I know I won't ever really get it until I meet him face to face.

  13. Charity Singleton

    Such a small word, such a big God. I will be thinking of the "so" all evening.

  14. Beth E.

    So much love and power in such a little word…another outstanding post, Jennifer!

  15. Lyla Lindquist


    I do like it when you brush up your Greek. And I'm with jaybird. It's huge.

    Nothing brilliant to add. Just wanted to let you know I was here.

  16. Laura

    And now I am *so* smitten with this word too! Jennifer, between you and Lyla…you girls are making me take a second look at these little words. I love it.

    Thank you for your hugs over at my place today. Deep in sorrow, aching…but taking comfort in the knowing Who holds my friend today.

  17. jasonS

    Just beautiful, Jennifer. I love when God makes things more real to us. What an awesome pleasure it is to share it too and bless others. You blessed me! Thank you.

  18. Catherine Love

    Such beauty and mystery in such a little word.
    Thank you "so" much for blessing me with your words today!

  19. Linda

    This is wonderful Jennifer. You always teach me something. I am so grateful.
    That tiny word has gotten rather overused these days – I am SO ready; I am SO not going there.
    Thank you for thinking about it, digging to the depths and discovering what an immeasurable word it is.

  20. Erika

    Oh that we might "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!" (Eph. 3:18-19).

    Thank you for this powerful reminder…one I need again and again. Beautiful.

  21. The Dove Chronicles

    Such a wonderful realization! I know, for some reason, when I say "I love you so" to my husband, it MEANS more to me. Could this be why? I grew up hearing my stepfather saying, "I love you so," to my mother. And they were such soul mates. Is "So" an accented love?

    Lisa Marie Brodsky Auter

  22. David Rupert

    A really insightful post. I never knew…

  23. Sandra Heska King

    I ran into this "so" not so long ago. So love this.

  24. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    Jennifer – thank you for this word today that comes straight from our Father. i love it! i, too, will be writing 'houtos' in my bible today.

  25. Tabitha

    Hi Jennifer, you've given me a greater insight to just how much God loves me. When I tell my daughter "I love you SO much" I always place emphasis on so. Knowing it's true depth from The Father makes me want to express it to her even more. Thank You.

  26. nance marie

    thanks…good post.

  27. sundijo

    Love this! Thanks so much for sharing and being so authentic.

  28. PaisleyJade

    Beautiful!! Amazing what you can discover in such a well known verse!

  29. H. Gillham

    His love is not earthly — it is holy — and that makes all the difference.

    He so loves you and me.


  30. Brock S. Henning

    "If the Gospel were a novel, this would be the one verse on the dust-cover."

    Now that is so cool. Great read, Jennifer. And we use this word so often without realizing the emphasis it's meant to convey. I never did, until reading this today.

    I'm no scholar, but I too enjoy looking up the Hebrew and Greek translations, and the more I do, the more I realize how the English language dilutes such power from the original text, unless you dig deep into the context. A Jewish friend of mine says if we could all read Scripture in its original form, we'd be blown away by its beauty of words and form. And I think its a pretty good book in English! 🙂

    Thanks for beautifully sharing your morning research!


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