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John Mark McMillan - The Medicine
Music You Might Want to Consider - J
There are a number of John Mark McMillan records that I could have chosen for this post; it was really hard to narrow it down to just one. So I narrowed it down by going with one criteria - “What is my favorite John Mark McMillan song?”
Many people would probably go with “How He Loves”; it’s probably his most well-known song, even if the version most people are familiar with is a cover by David Crowder Band.
But since I’m more of a purist, if given a choice, I would go with the “sloppy wet”1 version, by John Mark McMillan.
“How He Loves” is a good gateway drug for John Mark McMillan fans, but it’s far from his best song.
McMillan is an incredibly talented songwriter, who doesn’t run from his faith, but doesn’t let cultural conservatism restrict his artistic sensibilities. I would argue that he’s not a worship artist as much as psalmist, since he doesn’t skip over the messy parts of the faith journey, he walks through them, warts and all.
So what is my favorite John Mark McMillan song?
“Carbon Ribs”, the fourth track on his third album, The Medicine.
“Carbon Ribs” is a song about a lesser known character from the Bible, with a rather memorable name - Mephibosheth. He’s a small character in the Bible, barely given a few paragraphs, but he’s become a favorite of mine. Mephibosheth was a broken, crippled man. He was forced to beg outside of the city gates due to his physical state, unable to do anything other than that.
But he was the grandson of a king.
In the days when King Saul was chasing David, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the closest friend David had, was a baby. He was being cared for by a nurse, who, in her haste to escape David's men, fell down a flight of stairs, breaking his body in ways we can only theorize about.
This brokenness crippled him. And events around him crippled him further, leaving him destitute and begging for anyone to notice him, help him. To love him.
That’s what we all want, right? To be noticed. To be helped. To be loved.
I think a lot of humanity is broken, much like Mephibosheth was. Coming to that conclusion is not much of a reach, I’ll admit. But we are broken people. The degree to which we are broken may vary, but we are broken nonetheless.
Crippled by a number of things that, in many ways, are completely out of our control.
Sparing a lot of the details, I come from a history of brokenness. It’s hard to stare into it, acknowledge it, give it space in my head to breathe. It’s a Grand Canyon inside of my heart, and just to fathom it is enough to drive me mad.
King David eventually discovers who Mephibosheth was, and instead of having him killed, he invites him to his table. To honor him. To show that who he was (the son of his closest friend) mattered. It was at the table of the king that Mephibosheth found love.
A broken man sitting at the kings table.
Mephibosheth, like many of us, myself included, was put in a set of circumstances that was not his fault. To paraphrase the great philosopher, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, he was “unjustifiably in a position he didn’t want to be in, yeah.”
And yet, he found himself at the king’s table.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Arizona for my younger sister’s wedding. On my last day there, I had some time before my flight to travel to the Grand Canyon. It was two hours away from where I was staying, and I had never been there.
When I first got a glimpse of it, I was astonished by just how far I could see. I could imagine shouting on one side and my voice carrying forever, into eternity. I stared into it much like how I stared into my own brokenness. My own past.
And I was not afraid.
We all know our brokenness. We all know how we’ve been wounded. It’s taken a lot of time, prayer, and therapy, but I think I’ve finally reached the point where I can stare into the chasm of my past, my history, give it space in my head and let it breathe.
And then let that history know how little power it has over me now.
And much like the Grand Canyon, when I shout into it, the echo of my victory will ring throughout eternity.
There’s a funny meme about this non-controversy - some people think that the term “sloppy wet kiss” is a bit over the top, maybe too sensual for a worship song, so Crowder (probably at the request of record label execs") used “Unforeseen kiss” instead. Sure, it’s not as “sensual” as “sloppy wet”, but it doesn’t sound nearly as good.