Monday, August 17, 2009

Loves Like A Hurricane, I Am A Tree Revisited

Back in January, I heard a song. A song that I blogged about. Since then, this song has spread at near-viral speed, sweeping the airwaves, and even being recorded by David Crowder Band. A lot of people weren't very happy with the way I viewed the song. Some thought that it was wrong of me as a Christian to critique worship music, others lauded the song and spoke of how deeply it moved them. Others implied that God would somehow punish me for my disdain. I write this to say, despite the song's increasing popularity, I'm still not interested. And, I figured with how many people are listening to this song now, I might take a moment to better explain why by examining a few of the songs metaphors:

Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy

Now, I'm from Oklahoma, and we don't have hurricanes. But, I am aware of what hurricanes are capable of doing, and I'm very uncomfortable comparing God's love to a hurricane. Hurricanes are highly destructive forces that have the potential to obliterate almost anything in their paths. Especially trees. Trees don't gently bend and sway in hurricanes; hurricanes snap trees in half, which means we seem to be implying that God's love is going to snap us in half and send us hurtling through the air, killing anything in our path. I don't even want to think about the "weight of his wind".

If grace is an ocean we're all sinking

Again, being from Oklahoma, we don't have oceans either, but, unless wearing scuba gear, it is rarely the intention of people in the ocean to sink. Drowning in the grace of God seems to imply the same sort of abrasive, violent love from the last hurricane line.

heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
and my heart turns violently inside of my chest

Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss. I don't know that I particularly need images of teenagers making out in the backseat of mom's car to be associated with the way Heaven and Earth interact. And, again, apparently God's love is out to get us, creating physical situations similar to a heart attack.

So, assuming God's love doesn't break you in half, drown you, or send you in to cardiac arrest, enjoy it.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”


TheGuyWhoWorksAcrossTheHallFromYou said...

First of all, I should say that I can see and understand each of your comments. Metaphors are always tough to deal with, especially when they are so extreme as they are in this song. It's clear that the author (John Mark McMillian) is a very poetic and emotional individual searching for ways to describe his realization of God's love for him.

I struggled with this song for a while, too. I loved the overall message of the song (I believe it's something I/we need to be reminded of very often); however, being a worship leader, the thought of leading this song congregationally was ridiculous with such lines as "sloppy wet kiss" and "i am a tree, bending". The chorus, to me, worked congregationally but the rest of the song was a very personal love letter to God that I believed could only be comfortably sung in one's bedroom or something like that.

Once I heard David Crowder Band's version (who most notably were 1) able to turn an 8 minute song into a 4 minute radio single... also helping it fit more easily into a Sunday morning worship music order; and 2) able to change the line "sloppy wet kiss" to a much more manageable "unforeseen kiss") I felt slightly more comfortable with it, and led it for the first time at a camp a couple of weeks ago. I also changed the line "i am a tree" to "i'm like a tree".

As far as metaphors go, it's always in the hands of the interpreter. You, for example, interpret the metaphors much more violently than I do.

I grew up in North Carolina and have experienced plenty of hurricanes. Yes, some trees snap in half (usually tall, skinny pine trees) and others are completely uprooted from the ground (due to the soggy, wet soil around it from several hours and sometimes days of rain combined with the strong wind). However, I have also seen stronger trees that have literally been permanently bent by hurricane force winds (a specific one that I saw in Charlotte, NC, comes to mind which was bent during Hurricane Hugo in the early 90s).
All that to say, the way I interpret this particular metaphor is slightly less literal and violent. I interpret these words to mean that we cannot escape the effect or the power of God's love for us. Not that His love is a cruel, unforgiving hurricane force wind that snaps us in half, but that just as a tree cannot run or hide or escape the wind of a hurricane, so can we not escape or hide from or run from God's love (the last few verses of Romans 8 comes to mind). Even if we choose to ignore it, the fact remains that He loves us, even when we can't understand it.

I get the same sort of interpretation from "if His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking". The author doesn't use the word "drowning"... rather, he uses a word that could rather be explained as being overwhelmed by the object (in this instance, God's grace). So while sinking could, and usually does, lead to drowning, I again take a less literal approach to interpreting and understanding this metaphor.

The line I still have some trouble with is the "sloppy wet/unforeseen kiss" (I have also heard of people using "intimate kiss"). I'm trying to think of better ways to explain heaven meeting earth, but I am also trying to be a little more comfortable with such intimate language when describing heaven/earth or God/us. But "sloppy wet" should never be used in a worship song.....................

The Wanderer said...

Thanks for your well thought out comment, B-Dub! I can see what you're saying about the winds. Good point, but, I'm not sure that changing the metaphor "I am a tree" to the simile "I'm like a tree" does much of anything to the idea.

As for the "unforeseen kiss" line, while it's certainly less unappealing, it's a lot more cryptic. I'm not sure what heaven sneaking up on earth and kissing it says about our relationship with God.

Another thing about this song that irks me that isn't found in the lyrics is that the author (at least from this youtube clip: seems to believe that God will kill people in order to change lives, something I'm highly uncomfortable with.

Brint Montgomery said...

You are the master of metaphor, man--the MASTER!

bindicat said...

I realize this might be an old post, but I find it interesting that I discovered this blog where such a similar discussion is taking place. I know I may be beating a dead horse, but when you mentioned how people had reacted in shock when you said 'Love like a Hurricane' was a ludicrous song, I had to reply.
My sister recently voiced the opinion to someone at our church that she did not like this church and listed the reasons why -- lack of rhythm, melody, 'singability', and lyrically, it was confusing and awkward.
This person told my sister the story of how and why the song was written and again, and while it was a moving story, did little to change my sister's opinion.
This person is now praying for my sister's "hardened heart" to be changed.

Is it so wrong to not like a song? Can't one have an opinion--heaven forbid a negative one--on a song that makes one uncomfortable?

Perhaps the reason people are so defensive of this song is because it plays to the emotional side of worship. When someone feels God or hears from him during this song, to hear someone say the song is saying they were just emotional and it wasn't really God.

For those who enjoy the song, fine.
I'm not trying to bash your worship experience. However, if the chorus was not as poignant as it is, if the chords were not as strong as they are, if the story behind the song was not as heart wrenching, would people find it as appealing?

I don't mean to tread on any toes; just giving an opinion.

carrie said...

hi, I am so glad you wrote your post. A visiting worship leader just sang this song on sunday and I seriously stood there and really had to think about wheterh I like this song or not. it rubbs me the wrong way...I am from TX and we just had a storma dn tomorrow my blog will have post on it with photos form that storm including an uprooted tree. I with you. I was like what the heck?!? I am a tree? hurricaines detroy trees.
there is something that rubbs me the wrong way about the song. It's on my "I rather not sing this, hope the fad ends soon" list.
It is among other songs like "theres a wind a blowin" that I have not been able to sing since Junior High and it was compared to bodily wind. Some imagery workd and some doesn't. maybe I am just old and no longer hip.
enough rambling.
I appreciate you blogging because I was ablet ot find the lyrics and read your thought when I went searching for the source of the song. Wednesday my blog post will show up - echos what you have said ( though I wrote it early this morning and just now find in gyour post.) i am glad to know that not everyone thinks this is the best song ever.

carrie said...

apologizing for the horrible grammar and spelling in my comment. I am working on a keyboard that is missing keys. ugh.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where you got the "sloppy wet" part, but the lyrics are "Heaven meets Earth like an unforseen kiss."

The Wanderer said...

Like I've said before, Anonymous, the original lyrics as written by the song's author, John Mark McMillan, are "sloppy wet kiss". When the song was re-recorded by David Crowder Band, they changed the lyrics to the less disturbing but much more cryptic "unforseen kiss".

Anonymous said...

"He loves like a hurricane" -when looked up, hurricane can also be defined as a storm of the most intense severity. So God can be looked at like that. Look at what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. Like tough love.

"I am tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy." -Does it say anything about swaying? No, it says BENDING. As in on your knees. Like praising Him.

It is unforseen kiss now. I concure, sloppy wet is nasty. lol

No matter what, it is your opinion and you can choose to like it or not. I love it. But don't care for other songs. So, it is whatever your flavor is.

Anonymous said...

I do remember seeing trees as a kid in the panhandle that had literally been shaped by the direction of the wind. But this metaphor seems creepy to me, also. The trees are rooted to the ground, and can't escape the wind, but doesn't God give us a choice? We learned in a childrens workshop about the inappropriateness of using metaphors, especially with someone 4 or younger. (fishers of men = dead fish with hooks in their mouths) I did a dramatic play activity with some kids where we were supposed to be trees in the wind, rain, ice, snow, etc. But we had recently had a wildfire! So of course one bright child decided his tree was burning to the ground, and there we went! Powerful thing; the link between words and ideas.

Anonymous said...

Loves like a hurricane - so unpredictable like gods love, so powerful, strong, and not easy to explain.

I am a tree bending- we cant dogde it. itll come to us one way or another. the "hurricane" is so strong it makes a strong tree bend.

with with and mercy - thats gods power. his almighty power.

If grace is an ocean we're all sinking- again, we cant dodge it. it surrounds us like an ocean. however, instead of DROWNING, like you so obviously plainy put it, it means that we are surround, submerged, filled with. Gods love.

heavven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss- yes its a weird way to put it, but it just means that god loves us so much, he's so powerful that its just not even important anymore. And gods love for us is so not explainable. Its abstract. Like van gough, or whatever. Just not explainable.

My heart beats and turns violently- wheni was saved, my stomach was burning. my eyes were burning from tears. i feel the same way whenever i hear a great worship song(and i know this isn't a worship so, or it wasn't planned to be) just so amazing, of course our human body cant handle it. its for our spirit to drink it.

This in my opinion was a youth song. for teenagers. i am 13 years old, and of course i dont understand all ths. But when i listen to older songs, for our parents, i dont feel the same passion. maybe its because your older, wanderer, but its just gods way to reach the younger kids now. its not all just about adults you know. I understand where your coming from, but stop. being. so. logical. your thinking science. we're think god. those two will NEVER cooperate. but god will always win. Visit your youth pastor at your church, and talk with him.

Shane S. said...

Yeah, talk to your youth pastor, old man. Science and god will never cooperate.

Ashley said...

I hadn't really thought this much into this song. I actually only knew the first couple of lines of it until I decided to look up the rest of the lyrics. We've sung it several times in my homegroup. I really liked the powerful imagery of the "Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree bending beneath his wind and mercy". I definitely didn't think of it as literally as you.I also like the second verse - especially "I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me".
I did finally hear the "sloppy wet kiss" part when we sang it this weekend, and I thought "that's kind of strange", but didn't really hear the words surrounding it. Although, with the other words, it does make sense to me, but that is a metaphor I can see a lot of people getting caught up on. *Shrugs* Overall, I like the song and it's okay if you or others don't. There's songs I'm not fond of, that you might be!

On a different note, to the kid who said the following:
"I understand where your coming from, but stop. being. so. logical. your thinking science. we're think god. those two will NEVER cooperate. but god will always win. Visit your youth pastor at your church, and talk with him."

Science and God cooperate so much it's not even funny. Science, for me is PROOF of God. Science, nature, all of it, is so beautiful. God is so beautiful. Then again, I connect with God through nature (and science).

Anonymous said...

you guys should really get off your ass and quite watching porn on your computers. oh by the way “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Gandhi