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I don’t have time to maintain any regrets

A review of “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan – Part 3

In my previous posts, I sought to find some positive things as well as some critical things to say about this song. In “In Praise of a Sloppy Wet Kiss” I shared a video of the songwriter sharing about the song. Here is again for your convenience:

How He Loves : A Song Story from john mark mcmillan on Vimeo.

As I have mentioned throughout, this song was born out of a tragic experience and the loss of a good friend of the songwriter. The song seems to be a vehicle for catharsis as he dealt with his grief. He mentions in the video (around 2:24) that he needed “to have some sort of conversation with God”. This is TOTALLY normal and understandable. We all have had to deal with loss at some level, and trying to reconcile our faith and God’s love in the middle of difficult circumstances is a natural part of our faith.

He is very honest in the video and mentions (around 4:34) that the song is “celebration of weakness and anger”. He goes on to say that the song is also “a celebration of a God who would want to hang with us though those things.”

Seeing the song it is original context (and understanding the Stream of consciousness nature of the song) helps us to understand much about the song. Now “these afflictions” can be seen as his grief. “These regrets” could also be things related to the loss of his friend. These expressions (as well as anger and question God) are all part of a normal response when someone has experienced a loss.

As the songwriter expressed, this is part of his conversation with God, and was probably not intended to be a song sung in a worship context. Let me be clear: I have no problem with this song being sung as one’s person expression of faith.
The problem that I have is when I encounter this song in a worship context. I have trouble singing the verses. They are someone else’s conversation with God, and experiences that I have not had. I’m not sure with afflictions I would be referring to. I’m not convinced that it was the grace in His eyes that drew me to Him. I’m not trying to maintain any regrets, so why should I sing that line? It is just not true for my experience.

The other problem that I have is that 90% of the people I have talked to who love and defend the song cannot answer any of the questions raised about the song. They simply love the song and have an emotional response to it. I also respond emotionally to God’s love (did I mention that I like the chorus?) but have trouble owning the rest of the song.

As I mentioned in my first post,

I have no doubt that the message of this song resounds with many people, and any concerns that might have with it do not negate the fact that God can use this song to bring glory to Himself through it.

For those that choose to use it in a worship context, I would encourage you to help those singing it sing it with understanding. Our emotions about God should be based on truth and not someone’s experience.

4 comments to I don’t have time to maintain any regrets

  • Chris Acheson

    Thanks for taking the time to think through these things! I’ll admit that I’ve mostly steered clear of the controversy surrounding this song, while holding a strong fondness for it in my heart. While my heart may want to blindly defend the song, it’s important to look at things with understanding, as you say.

    I’m honestly disturbed that I get distracted every time I hear the song in worship. I’m waiting for the one line. “Did they change it? Are we going to sing unforeseen or sloppy wet?” Then I find myself categorizing the worship leader into one of two groups that I’ve arbitrarily come up with, stereotyping them and their style based on which way they decided to go with that single line. If for no other reason than that, this song is less conducive to corporate worship and more appropriate as a cry of a single worshipper to God. After all, I love this song best when I’m singing it at the top of my lungs. Most songs I prefer others to sing, while I sing along, but this song is one where I prefer hearing myself to David Crowder or whomever it may be… and I think there’s something to that. I think it’s because this song isn’t made to be sung corporately so much as cried to our Lord.

    Even the wonderful chorus feels more like a self-reminder than a corporate anthem, one we’re desperately clinging to when the world and the enemy is screaming otherwise in our ear. I for one will keep singing this song to the Lord, but use caution when considering leading others in it.

  • Brian Fanelli

    Could not agree more. I’ve always had trouble understanding the meanings behind the phrases in this song, and often, this trouble gets in the way of me truly worshiping God with it. Like you, I have not had an experience like this song writer has had, and the only part that truly resounds with me (and is Biblical) is the chorus. If it were up to me, I would not use this song in a congregational worship setting.

  • Dani Spil

    I appreciate the truth and the factual evidence and background of the song. I think it is great to understand where the writer is coming from, and what the situation and circumstance is while the song is being written. However I feel like the song is quite relatable, at least for me. The verses to me, seem universal for the most part. It is a given that we are all going to go through struggles and hardships. When the writer talks about them though, it is obviously from his own personal situation, but I think that is what makes it beautiful as well. And the Love of God is so remarkable and the grace of God is unfathomable, and I feel this song captures those two concepts very well. In a congregational worship setting I can see the conflicts or concerns of others, but personally I don’t have a problem with it. The song blesses me, and I feel it is appropriate in a worship setting.

  • Bekah Hoesterey

    I would like to start off by saying that while I do like this song it is not my favorite or my FIRST choice to sing in a worship setting. With that being said I think that I must respectfully disagree with some of the things you said and your take on this song.

    To say this song is mainly applicable to people who have faced trials like the writer has and therefore should not be used in a worship setting because not everyone has experienced this is debatable. We will never find songs that can cater to everyone’s personal experience and spiritual needs. One can make the same argument (as we did in class) when wanting to sing songs like “Happy day.” While we should always have joy, someone in the congregation’s mom might have died that day. This would be extremely hard for this person to sing the lyrics and mean them. This does not mean that we can’t sing songs like this, it only requires that we recognize that we cannot meet everyone’s needs. One’s response to worship is simply between an individual and God, there is nothing that we can do about it. We can only be sincere in our worship and pray that the congregation meets God wherever the individual is.

    Also, I believe that our songs should be doctrinal and theologically sound. However, I do not expect the average worshipper to be rooted in theology and to be analyzing the lyrics during worship. I simply hope that they are instead dwelling on the greatness of God, His love and grace, and our need and desire for Him. I believe that this song does all that. The references to a great and mighty hurricane, and we the trees, unable to stand because we are so overwhelmed by His love shows these concepts. The idea that His grace is so amazing and unfathomable is the reason why we are “sinking” in it like an ocean. We are being showered and overwhelmed with His grace and cannot escape it, similar to sinking in an ocean.

    I respect your views about this song and I recognize your valid arguments, yet, my perspective is different than yours due to my varying life experiences. This is true for all people because of each individual’s faith and background differ.