Michael Thom was working with the Campus House in Muncie when I met him some four years ago. When we first met, neither one of us had any clue that we’d be working together at the same company. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
In 1.5 years’ time, Michael graduated from Ball State University as a Music Education major, spent a year as a full-time Associate Campus Minister at the Christian Campus House in Muncie, got married, and began working at a software company in Indianapolis. He is now the IT Operations Administrator at Slingshot SEO and lives in Fishers with his wife Natalie and their dog. Natalie took up running first, but Michael plans to celebrate his one-year mark of running by participating in his first half-marathon at the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis in November! Michael also enjoys film and photography and runs Thom Video Productions.
John Mark McMillan’s How He Loves
I have no clear recollection of the first time I heard How He Loves. I can be fairly sure, however, that it was not John Mark McMillan’s version but instead the version made wildly popular by the David Crowder*Band in 2009. Though I’m a big DC*B fan and love their version, (and though this post is not so much about the merits of one recording over another), the version that speaks most to me is JMM’s original version.
As you learn in the video below (and you really should watch the video — he does a better job of telling the power of this song than I possibly could), the song was written out of loss. Specifically, JMM lost one of his best friends overnight to injuries sustained in a really bad car crash. He was angry and really broken up by that, crying out to God, and God’s powerful love overwhelmed him. While God does not promise to remove the bad parts of life — in fact, He tells us we will have angering, confusing, awful times in our lives — He does promise to cover us with His love. And oh, what love it is.
The song is filled with wonderful imagery. The very first verse starts like this: He is jealous for me / Loves like a hurricane / I am a tree / Bending beneath / The weight of his wind and mercy. Can you picture that? How can you help but not? A tree — solid, heavy, immovable — being overcome by the smothering, all-encompassing weight of a hurricane’s winds and rain. That is the love of our God. We may think we have things figured out, we may think “Hey God, I got this!” And yet his love is like that hurricane that just doesn’t let up.
The other half of that verse: When all of a sudden / I am unaware of these / Afflictions eclipsed by glory / And I realize how beautiful you are / And how great your affections are for me.
Wow. My job is to write about those words, and yet words are almost escaping me right now. My afflictions — my pain, my suffering, my loss, my life — are eclipsed — obliterated! — by His glory. His hurricane-like glory and love. When we are finally able to see past our present suffering, we can then see how beautiful He is. That last line, then, is the clincher: How great your affections are for me. Only once we see the heart of our God loving us through our struggles can we truly realize that it’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be broken. With the knowledge that He’s always there to pick us back up and love us back through the process of being made whole again through his Son, with that knowledge, we can get through it. Whatever it is.
I could go on analyzing the lyrics because they just continue to drip with truth illustrated through imagery, but I’ll let John wrap up the description of his lyrics, with his words from the video: “The love I’m singing about in that song is really not a pretty, clean, it’s not a Hollywood, hot pink love. It’s a kind of love that’s willing to love things that are messy and willing to love even difficult and kind of gross things.”
Two short stories. One of the coolest times I’ve ever participated in worshiping through this song was at a concert during DC*B’s final tour in 2011. They came through Indianapolis with Gungor [sidebar: check our Gungor if you're not familiar, you'll be glad you did] and John Mark McMillan. The Crowder Band closed the concert (well, before the double encore) with How He Loves, with Michael Gungor and John Mark McMillan joining them. What an amazing chorus of voices in that concert hall that night singing with them.
The absolute most powerful experience I’ve had with this song was one Sunday at church. Our church’s Contemporary services are blessed with having worship led by the Aaron Pelsue Band, who I personally have known and been a fan of since a high school CIY trip probably ten years ago. But one Sunday morning How He Loves was the backdrop to an incredible progression of people walking out, holding hand-written cardboard signs of the struggles they’ve been through — addictions, sexual abuse, cancer, death of loved ones, job loss, homelessness, and more — and of the work God has been doing in their lives since — “clean 5 years,” “in remission,” “learning to trust and love again.” With that song and its powerful lyrics as the soundtrack, there was perhaps literally not a dry eye in the sanctuary that morning. I’m weeping thinking back to that day right now.
John Mark McMillan has a way with words, and I would encourage anyone who is not familiar with his music to check him out. He has very few popular records himself, but his lyrics are so challenging and thought-provoking. How He Loves is a song that has gotten a lot of airplay thanks to the David Crowder*Band, but has touched me and so many more with its crystal-clear reminders of God’s overwhelming love for each and every one of us.