Every year, I participate in an online songwriting challenge called February Album Writing Month (FAWM). You’re supposed to write 14 songs in the 28 days of February. (You should join me this year! You can write just lyrics, just music, or both. It’s http://fawm.org my name is @arose). I’ve only made it to 14 once in the five years that I’ve tried, but it has always been a cool way to force me to write. When going for quantity rather than quality, I’ve found that I entertain some unexpected artistic paths, which has been fun! (Seriously, join me!)
Anyway, last February, as I was writing, a few phrases that I had been tossing around unexpectedly fell together to describe a friendship that I had in college. Despite my attempts to be more than just his friend, we never dated. In hindsight, I began to process through how my obsession with his rejection had colored my entire world at that time. I had allowed that friendship to overwhelm my focus on other things, and it changed the way that I saw my own self worth. I had felt like I wasn’t “enough.” From my perspective now, as a happily married woman ten years later, revisiting these feels was more like a pinprick than a tide of hurt…but it was clear there were pieces of that story that had impacted me long term. So I quickly wrote the song, (I was in a time crunch – more songs to write!), named it “Letter by Letter,” and
this summer, I was piecing together a collection of songs, and revisited “Letter by Letter.” I realized that it used the same chord progression as another I had written later which was based on Jeremiah 31. The lyrics, taken from Jeremiah, said this:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness
I will build you up again, up again
Again you will dance with the joyful
Again you will plant and see harvest
I will restore you, says the Lord
How long will you wander?”
Our kind Jesus used this simple thing to speak to me so sweetly. When I had written the Jeremiah song, I hadn’t applied those words to myself, and hadn’t understood the depth of them. As I wove together the two songs (with God’s voice in Jeremiah speaking to that girl of ten years ago), there was healing happening that I didn’t even know that I needed. It’s like He brought it up, saying, “Hey…we need to revisit this. I want to tell you about how I saw you during that time.” I began to understand that time in my life as a season of idolatry. Usually I don’t think I have to worry about that particular commandment, “Do not make for yourself an idol.” But in that season, I was looking for meaning, provision, and security from a relationship. This friend was my idol. I tried to get my everything from him (not intentionally…but I did) and it didn’t work.
We’re talking about sin here. I broke a commandment of God and sinned. But as this became more clear, the voice of God wasn’t a condemning one. We tend to think that God would bring up our sin to make us feel bad about it and make us change. Yes, change is good. We are not to keep sinning, for sure. But “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1) God’s purpose in drawing my attention to this was not shame, it was grace. His purpose was restoration and healing. He just loves me, and wanted to see that part of me made whole. And He used these mirror songs that I wrote to speak what He wanted to say in a way that I could hear.
It’s surprisingly easy to make one person the fulcrum of our happiness. It feels “natural” to do with my husband, my kids… Our culture reinforces this. Yet, it’s sin. When we pour our everything (our worship) into a person, it can’t satisfy. God says in Jeremiah 31:3-4, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again…”
Everything we need is waiting in Him.