A few years ago, I created a playlist in my iTunes account entitled “Best Songs.” My thought was to keep a running list of my 10 favorite songs. As I worked through my library looking for my favorites I realized that some of my favorite songs (‘In Christ Alone’ is one example) don’t have a recording that I like as much as other recordings of other songs (hope that makes sense). So the playlist became my ’10 favorite recordings’. Yet still, it includes some of my favorite songs of all time and it does not change that much. Good songs don’t get old, they just get better with time (like a fine wine, or so I’m told).
One song that made the list originally and remains to this day is ‘Closer’ by John Mark McMillan (JMM). Most folks know of JMM as the writer of the song ‘How He Loves,’ which David Crowder made famous. Yet, not everyone is familiar with his other stuff. His latest album Borderland was a departure musically from his older stuff and I did not like it as much as The Medicine and Economy, two fantastic albums. ‘Closer’ is off his earliest album The Song Inside the Sounds of Breaking Down, which is another great album and includes his version of ‘How He Loves’ (better than Crowder!)
I enjoy this song so much because it captures well the desperation of the human heart. Like so many other great songs, it is simply a prayer for the Lord to draw near. The verses remind us that fairy tales and philosophy are empty and leave us only longing for more. But the power of the song is found in the bridge. Using the language of Bartimaeus (see Mark 10:47ff) and others who called out to Christ in the Gospels, JMM sings/shouts: “Son of David, don’t pass me by! Cause I am naked, I’m poor and I’m blind.” Every time I hear that bridge I cannot help but be moved. For I am Bartimaeus. Without Christ, I am naked and poor and blind. I am stranded on the side of the road to Hell desperate for a Savior. And what can I do but cry out for mercy that I do not deserve? JMM captures this moment powerfully and I hear my own voice calling out through the strain of his vocals. Give it a listen and be encouraged by the Savior who does indeed come closer when we cry out for grace: