In high school, I was an avid songwriter. I was in a two-person acoustic band with a friend, working on my musical skills on my own, and writing almost constantly, especially in chemistry class (sorry, Mrs. Byrne!). Halfway through my junior year of high school, I had pages and pages of lyrics I’d ripped out of notebooks and stuck sloppily into a file folder, and most of them were what you’d probably expect from a typical sixteen-year-old: Taylor Swift-esque breakup songs and a few incredibly cheesy happy songs and some really ridiculous and random songs that I thought were symbolic and “artsy.” Some songs were completed with chords and melodies, and one was even recorded in my friend’s basement with my band (and is floating around somewhere on the internet as a free download), while others were left as essentially poems and they should NEVER be revisited again. You can trust me on that one.
But then I stopped.
There were no more songs.
I had nothing else to say.
Until one day this summer.
During week 4 of camp, I was counseling on our high school program called Element. One unique aspect of Element is that each day we sent the campers out to take an hour by themselves and just be. They were not supposed to sit with their friends or talk to anyone; the intent was for them to read their Bibles, pray, journal, and think. Since my campers got to do that, I did too. I sat out on one of our piers every day and spent time with God and did a lot of journaling that was really formative for me. This time, which we called Solitary, was easily one of the highlights of my summer.
During our last day of Solitary, I wrote my first song lyrics in almost two and a half years. And this weekend, I wrote chords and a melody. And then I realized that I was finally doing something that I loved again, something that I’d been unable to bring myself to do for so long, and I broke down. I cry over a lot of things, but for some reason I never thought that writing a song would be one of them. I was so excited that I had finally overcome my extensive writers’ block and, more importantly, that I had done it with a new purpose: Glorifying God. Here’s a journal entry I wrote the same day I penned the lyrics to this song.
July 10, 2014
I’ve barely written songs in two years. I’ve never really written worship songs before. Were my tongue and my pen silent for two years so that I could break from the mold of writing songs exclusively of heartbreak (songs that probably hurt others) and wait until I was ready to write about the things that really matter? Is this God’s purpose for me? Is this one of those things that God made me for and I just had to stop using it for my own intentions and wait until I was ready to start using it for the glory of God? Do I intend to use it for the glory of God? I need to. If I’m going to do this, I need to do it for God’s glory and not mine, and I need to be honest and sincere about when those intentions are pure, and when they aren’t. I think this could really be a way that God uses me, but I have to let him do that instead of trying to use God for myself. Just thinking about how often I have done that makes me want to cry. I continuously try to use God for my purpose instead of letting him use me for his purpose. Wow. What a wicked sinner I truly am. This is the part where I want to say, “But so is everyone else,” or, “Well, at least I haven’t done ____.” But none of that matters. My relationship with God, my sin, my brokenness aren’t about things I haven’t done or things that others have done. They’re about me and they’re about God and they’re about the fact that the thing that keeps me from God is me. Not the things that others have done or the many ways that the world we live in is terribly broken, but me. Just me. I have to take the responsibility. I have to say that I’m the one who did this. Over and over, I have chosen not to be with God and that’s the problem. It’s not God. It’s not anyone else. It’s always, always me. And that’s why I need God’s help, and I need to admit that. Wow, I’m awful at doing that. It’s a good thing that God is great at drawing me back to him though. I want my motives to be God’s plan. I want my intentions to be God’s glory. I want my wants to be aligned with the Kingdom of God. I want my talents to be a service and an offering that I pour out to God. I want my words to be His words through me. I want to fall in love, and I want God to be the one I fall in love with.
As you can probably tell, this songwriting process became a big point of self-discovery for me, and things got pretty reflective after writing it. I think it’s important to consider, though, all the things we do for ourselves that should be for God. We deserve nothing and God gives us everything; God deserves everything and we give him far, far less. That’s something I’m learning and trying to change, with his help, in my own life.
Here is the song I wrote. It’s a rough recording and my voice hasn’t been at one hundred percent the past few days, but I wanted to share it. I hope you find it to be something that you can reflect upon as well.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
With my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
– Psalm 103:1