Castles in the Sand

When the waters rise, will our castles remain?

“Now we are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”

I have a lot of favorite songs from a wide range of genres, but all of my favorite worship songs revolve around the lyrics. Perhaps my favorite worship song is one written by John Mark McMillan and covered by David Crowder Band (among others), “How He Loves.”

I will admit that with David Crowder Band being one of my all-time favorite groups, I’m probably a bit biased towards their songs, but with this song it’s really the second verse that stands out to me.

The song, as John Mark has expressed, is a crying out from agony in worship that God loves us through all things and will provide comfort even as we might feel none. He wrote the song following the death of one of his best friends, and his original version includes a third verse (not sung in the covers) that talks about how God met him through his breaking following the tragic event. It is not a tidy song, but rather a raw release of emotional awareness of the power of God’s love that He has for us

There has been a bit of a controversy about the second verse, as David Crowder made a minor change to the lyrics from John Mark’s original version. The verse says that “We are His portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes. If His 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. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us…”

The change was with the words “sloppy wet kiss,” as the DCB was concerned that certain (to be totally stereotypical) stodgy conservative Christians would be offended by the comparison of heaven meeting earth to something as scandalous as a sloppy wet kiss. So they changed it to an “unforeseen kiss,” and I have long struggled to decide which version I prefer.

I love the imagery of the sloppy wet kiss. The experience of heaven meeting earth through God’s love is anything but neat and conservative. It is an overwhelming expression of love that in a lot of ways makes a mess of everything we can see around us, in the same way that a sloppy wet kiss from a child or a beloved pet is an uncontrolled pouring out of affection. They don’t know any better to realize that culture dictates they should purse their lips for a soft peck – they just want you to know they love you.

However, the unforeseen kiss analogy also works. The idea of turning around to find your beloved there with a kiss, or even better the thought of waking up to an unexpected kiss from that same beloved, is one that should make your heart jump. The experience of heaven meeting earth works the same way in its suddenness; it catches us off guard and surprises us with affection.

Naturally, the best experience would be to combine these two images of a similar experience into yet another beautiful mess of emotion. And that is exactly what David Crowder and John Mark McMillan did.

Several months ago I had the opportunity to see my favorite band perform one final time (after a decade of making music together, DCB decided to part ways following their most recent tour), and John Mark was part of the tour. As one of the final songs of the night, David Crowder starts singing the beautiful first verse, “He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a 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…”

At that point, John Mark joined David Crowder on the stage and they sang the song together, combining different styles to sing the song they so famously share. And my favorite part was the second verse, when they both poured out their hearts in the words they had used in their own respective version. The audience joined in and split between groups of people singing each of the two versions.

It was a beautiful mess. It was sloppy and unforeseen. It was pure and perfect. It captured everything the words symbolized in what I can only imagine was a glimpse of heaven.

I could go on for another 800 words about how much I love the lyrics of this song, and particularly the second verse. But instead I will leave you with a challenge and a praise. The challenge: allow yourself to be drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.

And the praise is simply the final line of the verse: “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us.” Nothing in our pasts can hold us back, and the thought of His love for us wipes it all away. We simply don’t have time to cling to any of them, because He loves us.

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