Here is the second installment in my music biography.
Back when I was writing a lot more music, I would occasionally get the question from listeners: “What is your process for writing a song?” The honest answer, for me at least, is that I never had a real system. I would generally start with one line, image, or idea, and the song would just build from that. Sometimes it would take weeks and months of tweaking and editing to bring a song to completion, and often even after all that I would end up scrapping everything. Other times, the whole song would just come together in a matter of minutes.
Unfaithful was one of the latter. This was a song I wrote pretty early on in my life, both in terms of my songwriting experience and in terms of my personal and spiritual maturity. When it came to my understanding of biblical truth, I thought I knew it all. But I had not yet walked through the fires of refinement and I had many childish things that I was unwilling to let go of: pride, lust, selfishness, insecurity, inadequacy, etc. Knowing that these were damaging thoughts and patterns was one thing, but finding freedom from them was another. Like many professing Christians, I struggled with the apparent disconnect between proclaiming Jesus as my savior and actually living a life that reflected that belief. It was the age-old question: how can we keep on sinning if we are supposed to be dead to sin?
So, after one day of feeling especially broken and worthless and unfaithful – in the very depths of my soul, to everything I claimed to love – this song came out. I remember lying in bed that night thinking over and over again, “This is the last time I will go.” When I picked up my guitar the next day, this song just came out. Unfaithful is an admission of absolute helplessness of the human condition. It was basically my version of the words the Psalmist cried out, “How long, O Lord?” How long must I linger with this fallen heart that can’t seem to find freedom and joy and grace? I can never do it on my own.
I had no idea how right I actually was. I could never do it on my own – none of us can. It is remarkable to see how grace changes everything. In my youth, this song felt raw and real honest. Now, after a decade or so of growth and the journey of sanctification, I find that this song is more like a memory than anything. I definitely remember the pain and guilt and hopeless that accompanied me for so long; but grace has changed all that. Singing this song again this morning felt distant to me; or, to echo the Psalmist again, “As far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
To the one who feels stuck in that tension between hope and brokenness, between forgiveness and helplessness; perhaps you can relate to this song. I hope that you have the faith and humility enough to continue pursing God; I can say with confidence that one day you will look back, like so many of us do, and find that freedom has indeed come, and that love has indeed won.
Here is Unfaithful: