On the first day of 2008, I was on vacation in southern florida with my family. But instead of walking along the gulf coast listening to the waves, I was in a condo with my guitar, trying desperately to finish a song called “New Today” that is on my new record. I had already finished the song over a year ago and even put it on a live record called “At Sea”, but something didn’t feel right about the dynamics and the way the story unfolded. My experience of playing it live proved that people weren’t connecting with the narrator as quickly as I wanted them to, and were losing interest in the lyric, and I felt so connected to the song that I wanted listeners to feel the same way. So there I was at the beach, just days before Don Chaffer and I would start recording, trying to find the right path for “New Today” to take.
Today, I’d like to focus on one of the changes I made and why I made it. In her blog, Lindsay made some very good points about the two versions and caused me to look at the song differently than I have before. If you’ve never heard the song and are reading this, you might want to listen in order to understand better.
While writing this song I had a strong image in my head that informed the lyric. It is of a girl in her apartment which is across the street from a church. It is Easter Sunday and she has picked out a new dress and new shoes and is trying to feel the way you should feel on Easter. Reborn, forgiven, new. But she feels draped in shame, aware of every ounce of evil she has proved capable of. I know this girl, I’ve been this girl.
The 2nd verse of the “At Sea” version sings:
Walking up the church steps, I stop to look around
people seem to stare just like they know
I’m wondering if Jesus could even love me now
covered in a shame I can’t let go
and in the new version:
I’m wondering what Jesus thinks about me now
still carrying a shame I can’t let go
I know that *whoever is in Christ is a new creation, and that he took our shame upon himself. I know this, and from the viewpoint I wrote the song from, the narrator knows this as well. The problem for me, and the reason I changed “covered” to “carrying” is because in my mind, she was carrying her shame around like a shawl on her shoulders. Christ can’t take our shame from us unless we surrender it. The kind of shame I was writing about is the kind of shame that plagues us, the kind that is not as easy to lay down. The kind that starts to define us, starts to cloud our eyes and shape our posture, it becomes our identity. Sometimes it takes believing that we are new creations before we ever start to feel like new creations. There is a difference between being covered in shame, and carrying our shame. The latter implies a level of responsibility and the need for confession and surrender.
I find this kind of shame to be common among people who have been raised in the Christian faith, I find it in myself.
Lindsay also pointed out that the first version of some other lyrics imply a desire for newness, for forgiveness that isn’t as present in the new version. And maybe you’re right, Lindsay, maybe I lost some of that desperation in the lyric changes. It’s hard to listen objectively. It’s interesting, because so many songs follow this same path of editing, it’s just that I don’t release the initial versions of each song on a live record! But with this one, I’m happy that I did. Thanks Lindsay, for shedding new light on the song, namely your wedding interpretation, and for taking the lyric as seriously as I did while writing it.
As a songwriter all I can hope for is that each song will serve it’s own purpose, stand on it’s own and sing to the ears that will be inspired by it’s message.
*2 Corinthians 5:17