He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane and I am a tree. Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of the sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me…
This song has haunted me. It has caused controversy and question, yet drawing most hearers in with words that speak right to the craving in our souls. About a love that is so powerful and all-consuming that it cannot be pushed away.
Oh how He loves us so, oh how He loves us, how He loves us so…
I first heard this song years ago in my living room. Independent artist John Mark Macmillan had come through Redding and led worship at a church, selling his first compilation in the foyer. My friend brought the music over for me to listen to. I learned the song, and led it it a few times. A year and a half later, John Mark was signed and released the CD. The song became a hit and was covered by several other Christian artists.
And the words were changed.
There’s a line in the song that talks about a sloppy, wet kiss. And even though kissing and romance was created by the God of the universe and the lover of our souls, there was a collective cringe in the believing community. Is it okay to sing about this? It feels too intimate, too dirty, too messy, blah blah blah. I was not above a small reaction of just wondering if that line was okay. But then I thought about it.
I remembered how messy my children’s expressions of love can be. They’re slobbery, banana covered faces wanting to kiss my cheeks. Their chalk and marker covered hands wanting to hold mine as they show me their works of art. And then… the song made sense. But I knew there was more to it. And so I found a video of John Mark himself explaining the meaning behind the song that he wrote and the messy kiss described there.
You can find it on youtube. It’s a heart- wrenching story about tragedy and bad things happening to good people, and the questions we all ask God at one point of our lives. Why? And sometimes, when God enters the heartache and mess of our most difficult moments, it’s not sweet and romantic and wooing. It’s messy and painful because it’s divine comfort meeting our most traumatic pains.
I had my own messy moment with this song.
My mom loved this song. She first heard it in Mexico, when a lovely girl named Ashley Boban sang it for worship. And from that moment on, it was forever the melody on my mom’s lips. While washing the dishes, or folding laundry, or walking in her garden, she would sing this song. She didn’t know all the words, and so she would repeat what she knew, over and over and over again. And because it was the favorite song of the entire family, someone would always join in, mumbling the song along with her while we went about whatever chore it was.
That was the summer before she was diagnosed. The last summer of her life. I moved away that summer, and only visited once before cancer came into our lives. After that cancer filled every moment, every phone call, every conversation. Her downfall followed all the patterns. Like a text book. And so, on her last day, we all knew. The signs were in every breath. We waited. Taking turns by her bed, and when darkness fell, my sisters went to a friend’s house, and the rest of the family gathered at mom’s side. It was an evening so full of emotion that it was hard to express any.
It took every bit of strength to start singing to her. I sat up near the head of her hospital bed, with my grandma (her mom) at my side and I sang. I sang the only song that would come to mind. I tried to sing others because my mom’s family was there and this song had some strange words that I was afraid they would think were weird. But I couldn’t remember anything else.
And so over and over again I sang. Every part of the song. And that night, heaven met earth like a sloppy, wet kiss. Like an expression of love that was so messy, my instinct was to wipe it away. But it wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t chase the end from the room. But I knew He was there. I knew Jesus was there. Taking mom. His caress hurt because we knew what it meant, but we didn’t want him to stop comforting.
In the half light of my mother’s bedroom, surrounded by family, I put one hand on her hair and one hand on her arm because I wanted to memorize how she felt. I wanted to memorize her scent. I stored it all away knowing I would need it to last a lifetime, and I sang…
We are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. So heaven meets earth like a sloppy, wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest cause I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way…
He loves us, oh how He loves us, oh how He loves us, oh how He loves…
A thousand people showed up to her memorial service. And I led worship. It was an honor to praise God for the mother He gave me. After a three-hour service, I took to the stage one last time, and I sang this song once more. And with my eyes open, I witnessed the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
A large church full of people with their hands raised, eyes streaming with tears, testifying to the love of Christ. Voices as loud as my amplified one. A collection of sound and words rising to heaven as incense and a comforting balm upon those of us that were hurting… reminding us that, even though none of this made sense and it was awful and didn’t seem right… that He loved us. That we couldn’t escape from this moment, but that He would also stay in it with us.
Heaven meeting earth like a sloppy, wet kiss.