The Songwriter’s Lament

Songwriting has two parts to it: the music part and the lyric part. I have discovered I am rather lazy on both counts and have greater expectations than laziness will allow. The truth is, I have these random moments of inspiration where, through divine intervention and guidance, a particular tune and certain chords will come to me. Or perhaps I’ll have a bit of poem rolling around in my head that falls out in just such a way as to be seemingly lyrically pleasing. When such things happen simultaneously, a song is born and requires little effort on my part but to accept the moment of inspiration and record it as it comes.

But I don’t really work at it the way a true songwriter does. Case in point, yesterday, I wrote a song that was just okay. It wasn’t bad, but it ended up being a bit short of finished and in need of reworking. I found this out when I showed it to someone and they found the lyrics more humorous than meaningful, not in a mean or derisive way but in that way that lets you know it’s not as finished as you thought it was. Truth is, they were probably right, something I could begrudgingly admit. I was going to have to rewrite it.

I hate rewrites. I want to get it right the first time and not have to do it again, not have to wrestle with the words or the chords or my voice. I wrote it, it should be done. In truth, it could be. But if it is, it’s not the kind of done it could be. It falls a short of being its best version.

In my mind, this kind of parallels the Christian life for some people. They have a singular moment where they encounter God in a very real, very personal, very powerful way. They make a few changes to the way they see the world, start going to church and begin good in socially acceptable way and that’s that. The song is done, no rewrites necessary. God did it all at once, that takes care of it. They settle for being something less than the best version of their spiritual self. How many people see things this way I don’t know but I have never been pastor of a church that did not have at least some people who saw this as the Christian life.

When it comes to The Way of Jesus, I see us as having to live into this as a lifelong process. In his book The Heart of Christianity, scholar Marcus Borg writes, “Martin Luther, a major spiritual mentor in my childhood, spoke of ‘daily dying and rising with Christ’ and, in language that sounds a bit archaic, of ‘daily putting to death the old Adam,’ the old self in us.” In other words, rewrites. Daily rewrites. The kind of life rewrites that sometimes require a few grammatical edits and sometimes complete overhauls but everyday is spiritual rewrite for each of us, something that is biblically called sanctification or literally the ongoing process of being set apart for God.

Whether we liike it or not, we are not a finished product. Lean into the rewrites of your daily walk with God. Use them as an opportunity to make the kind of corrections that lead not only yourself but those around you to a deeper, more fruitful, connection to and with God.

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