As an artist and creative, I love a good lyric. I love a good poem, a good visual, good analogy. It lights me up. Which is why back in 2009 I heard a lyric to a popular worship song that had me feeling all types of confused.
The lyrics are from John Mark McMillan’s “How He Loves” (later revised and covered by David Crowder). It goes like this, “…and heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss”, speaking of how God loves, hence the song title. When that song released, I remember sitting in Chipotle with some of my college friends and one male friend saying “that lyric is so awkward. It’s like so…… gross.” And I immediately agreed. It was, right? I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that. Why the heck would anyone choose that analogy to describe this? Don’t they know we’ll be singing this with our parents… in church? Sloppy wet kiss? Like, relax bud. Pretty sure Jesus is also kinda weirded out by that lyric.
I held that belief for years. To say that I didn’t cringe every time I heard It in church, on the radio, or at worship, concerts would be a big fat lie. I did. Every time.
It wasn’t until sometime later that God would have me hear this song with another perspective. Fast forward five years later, I heard the song playing low through my car stereo. I got to that part (…and definitely not about to sing it aloud) and I experienced a very foreign thought. A thought I don’t believe was mine. “What if that’s exactly how this thing works”? What if it’s not a gross exaggeration of the way God meets us here on Earth? What if Heaven can and sometimes does meet us like something really SLOPPY albeit beautiful? What if we can experience moments of Heaven in moments unplanned, unexpected, not ideal, messy…awkward? God met me there, asked my heart these questions and asked me to reconsider that analogy. Hm. Heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss.
A couple months ago I went on a mission trip with my church to Puerto Rico.
Some of those in our group had the opportunity to partner with a local church in Rio Piedras to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Maria while the majority of us participated in a summer camp put on for the kids in the neighborhood, many of which had been devastatingly affected as well. Before meeting the kids, the camp director briefed us on the population we’d be working with. She informed us that many of these kids lead very hard lives in ways that might be unfamiliar to us. Some had witnessed one or both parents die early on, have lost their homes and/or belongings due to the recent hurricane, and had to take on parental roles for younger siblings at very young ages. Not to mention most lived at or below poverty level.
One boy even had to help his dad burry his neighbors who passed away post-hurricane due to lack of medical resources. This broke my heart. Out of all the things she told us about these kids, however, one thing stuck out to me the most; some of them never get hugged, kissed or ever told: “I love you”.
We spent all week long helping with games, visiting their homes, praying with their families, doing crafts and teaching them Bible stories through the use of song, dance, costumes and theatrics (which coincidently also led me to the discovery of how awesome I am at playing the role of a “lost sheep”. What can I say Y’all? It’s a talent ☺ ) To say our team and the kids had a blast would be an understatement. The friendships forged in such a little amount of time were incredible and the amount of love present in the room was equally as poignant.
Which was why our last day was so hard.
We went in Friday morning with the intention of saying goodbye to these kids, taking some pictures and getting ready to leave Puerto Rico. When we got there, however, we quickly realized it wasn’t going to be that easy. Student upon student lined up for hugs, tears streaming down their faces, begging us to not leave. Our group stood together just giving hugs, kisses and little presents we had set aside for them. I stood in a corner and watched as love filled this humble, very hot, ridiculously muggy room in a church set in a country that wasn’t my own.
And that’s when I saw one of the teen students, Yamilet, sitting and crying by herself. All week long she pretended nothing phased her. All week long she sat in silence during discussions and made smart remarks when talking about Jesus. Hanging with her “cool” crew, it was difficult to connect or engage in conversation with her. I was taken aback by her sudden display of emotion. Nevertheless, I came and asked her if she was okay. She turned around fast and gave me a tight hug. I can still hear the sounds of her sobs and words that broke through them, “Gracias por estar aquí para mí. Tú me as mostrado amor y te considero como mi mama” (“Thank you for being here for me. You showed me love. You are like a mom to me”). I was as shocked as I was grateful. I would have never guessed I made this kind of impact on her!
I believe that in that moment I had two choices: pull away and keep my cultural mindset of “personal space” at bay or embrace the moment by embracing her. And not the way I would embrace her, but the way she longed to be fully embraced. Embracing her even though it was mega-uncomfortable. Embracing her even it was a good ninety-degrees, no AC (think um…super sweaty). I made my choice and tightly hugged her back. I told her how unconditionally loved she was by a good Father who would never disappoint her or leave her. Tears upon tears streaming down her face onto my own. Cheek to cheek, soaked with her tears, soon thereafter met with my own. Messy. Stuffy. Sloppy. LOVE. Right then, just like that. Caught up in this incredibly muddled moment- heaven MET the Earth. Should I not have chosen to enter it and accept it as a gift from The Father, I would have missed that moment.
I don’t regret staying in that embrace for as long as she needed it. If I would have seen that moment as “gross” and put my comfort in front of her need, the moment would have come and gone and seen its end. And it would have been a tragedy in which I was the one who lost the most. I would have never known real love from her, real love from my Heavenly Father, and real love as a gift from Heaven itself. Perhaps she needed me to tell her I loved her and God loved her more. Perhaps I needed her to break down barriers of my own comfortability and pride. Heaven met Earth like a sloppy wet kiss in that school in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Heaven met Earth like a sloppy wet kiss in the last moments with those kids.
I wonder how many moments we can and have missed. How many squandered moments God has given us to show His love, showing glimpses of Heaven because we let comfort and social norms rule what we say and do.
God used this analogy I first heard in 2009 and the changing of my heart towards it to say this; love sometimes means sacrificing the things that make you feel comfortable for the sake of what is actually better. The kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of Earth converge in ways that are both parts beautiful AND messy. Our call to love others is the same.
It can feel so inconvenient. It can sometimes show up at the most awkward of times. Often requiring us to re-evaluate our egos and flawless reputations. But isn’t that the best kind of love? Saying no to yourself to say yes to another. Laying your life down to give life to another. That’s real love. Love isn’t giving only when you “feel like it”. Love isn’t a beautiful curated Instagram post and caption, or a beautifully edited-a-million-times-before-sending text message. Love, in most real form, can be quite uncomfortable, kind of imperfect, kind of glorious if you let it be.
HEAVEN meets Earth in these exact moments.
At the end of my life, when I look Jesus in the eyes, I want him to be filled with joy that I recognized Him in these moments of messy. I want to be so familiar with risking comfort for the sake of love that it doesn’t feel like a loss anymore. I want to get comfortable in doing the uncomfortable. Because that’s where all the good stuff is at; where heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss.
I do believe if you want to live your life loving God and loving others well, He will gift your life with moments to display this.
The question is when the opportunity comes, will you join Heaven by entering into it?