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Blogs like a hurricane, the song is a tree

A review of “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan – Part 2

Ok, in my last post I shared some positive things about the song.

First, let me say that my goal here is not to be critical of someone, or even necessarily of someone’s creative work. I am trying to think critically. I am also trying to process my thoughts as a worshiper when someone uses this song in a worship context. I Cor. 14:15 says “I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” We are admonished to sing with understanding. So now comes the wind…

I’m not convinced that hurricanes are the best simile to use when describing God’s love. It get that they are powerful, are bending the tree, etc. I also have lived in Texas and traveled in the Carribean where hurricanes are common, and cause death and destruction. Just this summer, we were in Cancun when the first storm of the season came through (lucky us). Hurricanes don’t just bend trees, they break them and remove them. We went the the beach the day after just the edge of the storm passed through and were amazed to see what had happened to the trees.

He then talks about being unaware of these afflictions. One would assume in looking at just the text that the afflictions would be the hurricane of God’s love. Are we really communicating that God’s love coming on us is an affliction? If it is like a hurricane, are you really going to be unaware of it? The use of “glory” is out of nowhere. One has to assume God’s glory. I guess it is also possible to presume that by thinking about God’s glory when then become unaware of “these” afflictions?

I set out to prove that “we are His portion” is not biblical, but found that it was. Deut. 32:9 says that “For the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” Zech. 2:12 also support this. However, there is probably more suport for the Lord being our portion, rather than the other way around. See Ps. 16:5, Ps. 119:57, Ps. 142:5, Jer. 10:16, Lam. 3:24, etc.

The part of about being “drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes” is problematic for me. Is that really how we are drawn to redemption? I think John Newton had it better when he says “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear”. Did we really see Jesus’ eyes? Was there some magical “gracelike” twinkle? It also seems to contradict the way God’s love and mercy comes on us like a hurricane in the first verse.

My next concern is “if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”. Sinking in the ocean is drowning. Isn’t salvation about not drowning? Comparing God’s love to destructive hurricanes and drowning doesn’t seem to be the best examples to illustrate the point.

The kiss. I think is unnecessary and doesn’t really add to the content whether it is sloppy, wet or unexpected.

Lastly, the songwriter exclaims that he doesn’t have time to “maintain these regrets”. On the face value of the song: What regrets? The kiss? Being in the ocean of God’s grace? Sinking? Why should he want to maintain the regrets?

As I have tried to understand the song, I have come to realize the song is written in a very stream of conscienceness way, and that the story behind the song greatly influences the words. I will try to finish up in my next post.

2 comments to Blogs like a hurricane, the song is a tree

  • Tim Lukasiewicz

    I though this post was very well put together, and it made a lot of strong points. However, I feel like some of the problems you have with the lyrical imagery might be able to be viewed in a different light. You make the point that, ‘I’m not convinced that hurricanes are the best simile to use when describing God’s love.’. You go on to describe the damages that real hurricanes cause, and the devastating effects it has on lives and creation. I understand the connotation that the word “hurricane” could carry for someone when viewed in this manner, but in the same respect I would say that this isn’t a bad thing. I don’t know if the author was trying for this when he wrote, “He loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy, but it shows a profound respect for God’s holiness.

    It would be cheating God if we were to only think of his love in the same way we say we love cheeseburgers (or Chick-Fil-A if you’re not a meat eater). We can’t think of love as something that is only comforting to us. In his book The Reason for God , respected author Timothy Keller writes, “God’s wrath flows from his love and delight in his creation. He is angry at evil and injustice because it is destroying its peace and integrity (Psalm 145:17-20) the Lord watches over those who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” (Pages 73 and 74). Yes, God’s love can be like a gift we don’t deserve, but in the same right, it can be like a hurricane that has the power to destroy everything in its path. There is so much injustice in the world that we can’t say God loves the world, unless we also believe Gods love will make things right for those who love God. Author Becky Pippert puts it like this, Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference. God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but his settled opposition to the cancer which is eating out the insides of the human race he loves with his whole being. (Hope Has Its Reasons by Becky Pippert)

    Secondly you make the point; My next concern is “if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”. Sinking in the ocean is drowning. Isn’t salvation about not drowning?” Comparing God’s love to destructive hurricanes and drowning doesn’t seem to be the best examples to illustrate the point.

    I would agree that salvation is not about drowning, because in most cases drowning results in death. But aside from the poetic imagery this line helps me envision, this line might also point to some deeper theological truth than we give it credit for. If you are sinking in an ocean on planet earth, yes, you are probably going to die, because surrounding you is water, and too much water doesn’t allow us to breath and that’s how we drown. I don’t think you can say the same thing about God’s grace though. Too much of God’s grace does not equal death (as it does in water), but only a greater appreciation of our own depravity. Romans 12:3 says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (NIV). It is by grace that we can live, not of ourselves, that is why Paul writes in Colossians chapter three, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (NIV, verse 3) When I hear this line I think about how all the times I have sinned against God, and how after committing these acts I felt like there was no way God’s grace could still cover me, but because God’s mercy is new every morning I can again find forgiveness.

    Well, this was long, and my goal wasn’t to say “you’re wrong”, I just wanted to offer up a different perspective on these lines.

  • Hi Roger: great thoughts in both “reviews.” (Thanks for the email tip about your blog.) Just wanted to chime in and say, I don’t think MacMillian intends you to equate “these afflictions” with the “hurricane” of God’s love and mercy. He’s talking – as I understanding it – about *our* afflictions, which are eclipsed by God’s glory. I think he’s saying, I get so bogged down in my humanity – feeble, infirm, afflicted as it is – but then God’s love sweeps in and overshadows my weakness with His glorious mercy.

    Re: sinking in the ocean of His mercy – my mind doesn’t go to drowning; it goes to immersion, and even to baptism, which is certainly a more appropriate association with grace/salvation/redemption. But I take your point…at the same time, from a biblical vantage point, there is certainly a case to be made for the holiness and majesty of our great God (who is also a God of love, mercy, forgiveness, etc) to be simultaneously depicted as kind, loving, gentle, etc AND violent, destructive, etc. I struggle to reconcile this, but it’s biblical truth.

    Just my reading of those sections of lyric…I do share many of your other critiques – it is very stream of consciousness, and the visceral imagery in parts can be very problematic for people raised on “here I raise my ebeneezer, hither by Thy help I come.” Although, “see from His head, His hands, His feet / sorrow and love flow mingled down / did ‘ere such love and sorrow meet / or thorns compose so rich a crown?” doesn’t strike me as being far different from the rawness of MacMillan’s poetry.

    In any case, we have used the song in worship at Xenia Naz to good effect. We do the Crowder-ized, “unforeseen kiss” version, though…like you, I’m not just sure it’s “worth it” when an equal number of people are put-off or revolted by the “sloppy wet” as are enthralled by it.

    P.S. to Tim (re: comment above) – pretty sure the chicken from Chick-fil-A is MEAT too! 😉