Next to singing, songwriting is one of my most favorite things to do.
I prayed for this gift for a long time before I ever got the nerve to actually try it. If you've ever tried to write a hymn or a worship song, the first few will probably be pretty clunky. Mine were. I hated the way they sounded and I was so embarrassed by them that I wouldn't play or sing them for anybody. They weren't as awful as this disaster, but they weren't that much better, and I'd been singing since age 8 and playing piano since I was 4. The lyrics I had written wouldn't fit with the melodic lines I had been experimenting with and I really liked the tunes I had rolling around in my head. I didn't want to sacrifice them for the sake of the words. No matter how hard I tried, I could not adjust the syntax and grammar without it hurting the musical line I was going for. Frustrated and beset by an unforgiving perfectionist streak, I gave up for a while.
But God is so gracious, and the itch to write songs just wouldn't go away. And so I started again, and eventually I got the idea that if I really wanted God to inspire a song, I had probably ought to invite him into the creative process. One of the revelations about God that has increased in my world in these last few years has been just how close He is to us. For those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, he promised us that he would send his Counselor to indwell us and lead us into all truth. And those who ask will not be disappointed.
God can't get much closer to you that IN you. So I sort of began this conversation with Holy Spirit, moment-by-moment, figuring that if the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is now living inside of me, he might know a thing or two about what words to use for a song. He might even have something to say with respect to how to begin. I wouldn't always hear him right away, but I continued praying and poking around on my keyboard, and an idea would spring to my heart seemingly out of nowhere. Minutes later I would get an impression that I should start with a particular phrase or passage from Scripture. As I developed it further, before I knew it I had a verse and a chorus and in the creative flow the rest fell into place. Before I knew it I had a whole song that I actually liked and was proud of; it was a melody He breathed into me and as I cooperated with him the full song had materialized.
It's never formulaic and, therefore, never boring. On one occasion as I sat down at my keyboard Holy Spirit brought to mind, of all things, part of a musical line from the soundtrack of the movie East of Eden. I ended up tweaking the line a little bit that was the starting place for another hymn, and the line ended up being a rather inconsequential bit in the song, but that's how it began.
Isn't that just like Jesus? When he did miracles, sometimes he spoke the word, sometimes he spat in the dirt, on other occasions he touched the sick and they were healed. Never a rote prescription, all by the leading of the Spirit, Jesus did what he saw his Father doing. Jesus was completely yielded though but I wonder sometimes if in his private thoughts he mused “Dad, you want me to do what? Spit in the dust and wipe it on his eyes...huh?”
As I continue to write songs, I hope He keeps mixing it up.