“When you start to think about songs in the world, you realize that about 99% of them are about the novelty of love. I like novelty just as much as everyone else does. It’s fun to be in the mountains and go to Brazil and see the big Jesus statue…but there is something that some people never understand and that is that intimacy is way better than novelty…the thing about intimacy is that it is hard, it takes work, and sometimes it’s a little painful”
Dialogue 2 John Mark Mcmillan live at the Night
For years John Mark Mcmillan has set the stage for vulnerable worship. The song he is most famous for, yet gets little credit for, was written after a good friend of his died in a motor cycle accident. In the original recording he gets choked up, expressing the pain of it all. “How He Loves” is beautiful, but many don’t know how it was written out of pain. It was a declaration of love when John felt like he was really being bent by a hurricane.
Novelty is great and can develop intimacy, but farm field engagement photos and perfect party weddings will only last for so long.
Novelty is fleeting and intimacy is deep-set.
One thing that has become very novel over the years is Christmas. For the past few years I have been studying letter-writing, specifically what letters can do for us in the internet age. My search for relevant letters lead me to the infamous Christmas letter. I found a lot of themes and made an interesting conclusion, but what stuck out to me most was the positivity of it all. There were minimal mentions of sleepless nights, tight budgets, and relational fights.
I began contrasting these cheerful letters with raw and real war letters. There were deeper tones of sorrow and confusion in the war letters. Many were written in fear that when the letter arrives to the wife, mother, brother, the soldier would be dead. They were honest and full of intimate love.
An interesting conundrum is the vulnerability of the Christmas story. There was no gold glitter or sugar cookies at Jesus’ birth. Traveling across the land on a donkey in the desert isn’t a novelty many people try to put together. There wasn’t even any space for Mary and Joseph at the Inn. Jesus was born in a small shed smelling of stale hay and manure. He came into the world vulnerable, ready to take on all pain, sorrow, and judgement, even until death. To die for someone requires a deep-set intimacy.
The difficulty with intimacy is the vulnerability it takes to be intimate. It can be painful. When you let parts of your heart out to other people they can put love or fear in your heart. There is a plague of walls around hearts. When someone gets hurt while being vulnerable, they put up a wall of protection. Love is a sacrifice and a risk.
There are many stories of intimacy in the bible. One day a young lady called Mary of Bethany poured expensive oil all over Jesus feet and wept. Another time Jesus began to weep when one of his friends died. He felt the pain of Mary and Martha. There is also the story of Hosea. A man still pursues an unfaithful wife, just as Jesus pursues the unfaithful church.
Lucky for us, God cares so much about our pain that he bottles up our tears. By now I am sure I have cases and cases of tears.
One day he will pour them out like rain.
Today is a good day to sing a love song to Jesus. It’s also a good day to write God a letter, telling him what he means to us in this war we call life on earth. Or maybe you just need a novel day of picnicking in a cemetery with Holy Spirit.
There are many faces to God and many ways he shows his love to us. I like to think of God as the Father who goes before me, the Holy spirit as friend walking alongside me, and Jesus as a lover pushing me up from behind.