There are many examples of Batter My Heart. As I said, it’s the story of us all. It’s the story of the child of God. All of us have been sheep that have gone astray. And we all also need to be rescued by our Shepherd. The Bible says “ALL we like sheep” (Isaiah 53:6), which means all of us. And His rescuing is by catching, overtaking, ravishing—essentially, battering our hearts.
I think that the word “batter” is the stumbling block. Batter conjures up wife beating, like a battered wife. But for Donne I think it references his awareness of his true human condition, as well as his need for God’s deep passionate pursuit.
Fisherman and Hunter
Either God catches us like a fish with a hook (enticing and wooing) or He hunts us like game (force to break, overthrow, imprison). The end result is the same – God gets His man. The interesting thing about Donne’s Batter My Heart sonnet is that it references God’s many degrees and intensities of pursuing us. Batter My Heart: knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; o’er throw, bend, break, blow, and burn; imprison, enthrall, and ravish me. I don’t know about you but I have experienced all of these. Sometimes my movement towards Him is achieved with a light breeze, while at other times a forceful gale is needed. And sometimes I need a destructive house-lifting act of God.
Now, I will send for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks.
Jeremiah 16:16 MEV
God Gets His Man
Our God caters His captivating of us by fitting it to our circumstances and who we are. I’ve heard Martha quote someone a few times about God’s pursuit. Today Jennifer found it for me and I wanted to share it with you. I think it is applicable to this post. It’s from a preacher named J. Vernon McGee:
The deacons were interviewing a little boy for membership in their church. They asked, “How did you get saved?” The boy answered, “God did His part, and I did my part.” The deacons were not so sure what the boy meant by that answer, so they questioned further. The boy explained what he meant by his answer: “God did the part of saving, and I did the part of sinning. I ran from God as fast as I could, and God took out after me until He finally ran me down.”
Batter My Heart – I’m a Gomer
In my life I have met more Gomers (the whoring wife of Hosea) than Snow Whites (a fairytale). And by John Donne’s own words, I think he would’ve fallen in line as a Gomer – those who lean with a desire to have many lovers. You see, John Donne knew he had to be overthrown and ravished. He was self-aware of his propensity to waywardness. He also knew God was the only One who could capture and keep his heart.
“Batter my heart, THREE-PERSONED GOD.” Funny thing, I am out-numbered. This battle is literally Three against one. And though He won’t violate our free will, He does know just how to get me to scream, “Uncle!”