Church Worship

Song Story: When I Look Into Your Holiness

  • Melissa Hambrick Contributing Writer
  • Updated Sep 22, 2004
Song Story: When I Look Into Your Holiness

The year was 1974. Wayne and Cathy Perrin were still relative newlyweds, christening their marriage by hitting the road with their regional music ministry. Mostly they toured the southeast, but occasionally the call would take them out west, or maybe on an east coast run.

This particular week they were at a conference with a prophetic minister named Dick Mills, an evangelist with a proven ministry. He spoke a word of God over them: “You will write a song that will go all over the world,” he told the young couple.

The two had only been married a few years, and in fact, their music ministry was still a part-time job. They traveled to local churches, performing the favorites of the day—songs by gospel giants like the Gaithers and Dottie Rambo.

But as their ministry grew, they realized that they had something to say. And so the couple would sit down and put together ideas, with Cathy, a trained musician, most often putting melodies to their words.

When Mills spoke this prophetic message to them, the two were understandably excited. They had been writing songs for a few years now—could it be that a message God had already given them would reach beyond their local church walls?

Nearly 10 years later, with their ministry now full-time and a few recordings under their belt, the phone rang at Cathy and Wayne’s Cookeville, Tenn., home. A friend in South Africa wanted to record one of their songs in Spanish. Soon after, Youth With A Mission called, wanting to record the same song in Singapore.

“That’s when it began to kick in,” says Wayne.

The song was “When I Look Into Your Holiness,” a simple melody that has passed mouth to ear, church to church, until it spread to every continent of the world.

When I look into Your holiness
When I gaze into Your loveliness
When all the things that surround become shadows
In the light of You,

I worship You…

Back in 1980, with no infomercials to boggle the brain at 3 a.m., Cathy Perrin turned a sleepless night into worship meant for a king. As Wayne slept, Cathy crept into a spare bedroom and began to write down her thoughts.

“The chorus was just a very basic simple thought—about the reason God created us, which was to worship Him,” says Cathy. “Our primary focus is that we were created to worship Him. When you see His holiness, it should create a worshipful heart. I just looked for ways to express that in a form that hopefully other people could relate to, and it all kind of came together.”

After the two added the finishing touches, the song joined a list of others they performed in their travels.

“To us it was just another worship song. We’d written many, many scores, and this was just another one,” recalls Wayne.

But churches began to pick up on the tune, and it passed along from church to church like wildfire. In 1981, Integrity Music tracked the couple down. They’d already recorded the song for one of their projects, but needed to get in touch with the Perrins in order to pay royalties for the cut.

The only problem was that without today’s multi-media worship services, the song had been passed along like a giant child’s game of whisper—what started in the beginning wasn’t quite what came out in the end.

“You’d just hear a song somewhere and try to remember it,” says Wayne of those worship services and songs. “And you’d get to the next place and try to figure it out.”

“It changed as someone passed it along to the next person,” adds Cathy. “It would take on a different characteristic. The version that Integrity ended up recording varies significantly [from the original], but it still gets the point across. We’ve never had a major problem with it—God likes it, and it blesses people, and that’s what is important.”

The most visible change to the song came in the second verse, as “When my heart is enthroned in your love,” became “When my will becomes enthroned in your love.”

“None of us ever knew what that meant,” laughs Cathy. “We would get questions from people who would want to challenge us on it, and we’d would agree with them! Honestly, our home church sings it the way I wrote it, but other than that, it has never been recorded the original way it was written.”

Although “When I Look Into Your Holiness” has been recorded by worship leaders from Maranatha! Music, and the song is featured on TD Jakes’ Potters House Live disc, there’s one performance of the song to which Cathy and Wayne Perrin are partial.

A friend of the Perrins was on a tour group in Israel, and the group had been warned of the dangers in the volatile nation, and to be prepared in case anything should happen that would endanger them. As the group was on the tour bus, the warning suddenly became very real.

“There were some things going on around the bus that were very frightening,” says Cathy. “The bus driver sensed that the passengers were getting a little freaked out, so he quietly began singing. And ‘When I Look Into Your Holiness’ is the song that he began to sing, to try and calm them down and get them through the situation they were in. Thankfully, they did pass through it safely.”

While the two no longer participate in full-time music ministry, the Perrins still anxiously await hearing how their music continues to impact others for Christ. They are amazed at modern worship music, and how technology has given a new platform for songs like theirs, which once relied on word of mouth.

“I just think that it is amazing that those songs have had the worldwide affect they have had with the limited way of getting them out that we had at the time,” she says. “That makes it even more special.”