I came into the new record really wanting to explore the world of co-writing. I’ve almost always written by myself. I’ve written a few songs with one of my best friends, Chris Collins, but that’s about it. It’s really hard to trust someone else, especially someone you don’t know very well. But I committed to the idea for this record. So I packed my bags and went to Nashville for a few days to lay bare these raw ideas to some songwriters that I really respected.
Jason Ingram writes hits. And that’s intimidating. He’s written great songs with Brandon Heath (Give Me Your Eyes, Your Love), Bebo Norman (I Will Lift My Eyes), Tenth Avenue North (By Your Side, Love Is Here, Healing Begins), the Afters (Light Up The Sky), Sanctus Real (Lead Me), and others, in addition to writing I Will Follow (Chris Tomlin) and Forever Reign (One Sonic Society) with Reuben Morgan from Hillsong. That’s just the beginning of the list, and I’m rolling up to this guy’s house in my rental Ford Focus with my little notebook of song ideas, with no real idea of how to co-write a song in the first place. The thing about Jason is… he loves Jesus, and he knows a lot about pop songs. In that order. And he doesn’t seem to let #2 ever get in the way of #1. That’s hard to do. My #2 is different than his, but our #1’s are the same. So we got along just fine.
Jason made sure I was welcome and comfortable in his place and then we got to work. He had me start to share my song ideas. I began with the ones I felt most confident in. The songs I thought he would like. The songs I thought were radio-friendly. And he kept asking to hear more. By the time we got through idea #6, I was fairly sure he hated all my songs and was wishing this was over. But he was still kind and asked for another. I explained to him that I really cared about this next snippet, but that everyone who had heard it had immediately written it off. It just wasn’t what we needed. But he wanted to hear it anyway.
It’s hard to pour out your heart for someone you don’t know. This song was very personal. And it’s even harder to pour out your heart, when you have poured it out before and… it didn’t go so well. But I rolled out this song once more. Jason listened intently and after the chorus, he broke in and said, “This is it. This is special. Let’s get to work.” He said, “Todd, from the first line of the song, I knew I had to hear the rest of it.” No one had ever said that to me before. And to be honest, most of the encouragement I get goes in one ear and out the other. But this time I received it.
And so we began to work on this song exploring the idea of being a bride, undeserving and yet chosen. What does it mean when my identity depends completely on someone else? Because while I may not feel lovable, that does not change the fact that I am loved.
You may be wondering what the first line of the song was. Well, it’s…
“I can’t let you see me this way.”
That’s how I feel with God a lot of the time. I’m ashamed of who I am and what I’ve done. I want to repair myself before I turn to Him. But I look back at being a kid, when I crashed my bike in the street, and came home bloody and crying. My dad would have never sent me to the bathroom to clean up before he spent time with me. ( My Mom wouldn’t have either by the way.) He would have taken me in his arms, let me bleed on his shirt, and hold me while I cried. And then he would do everything in his power to make it better. Is my dad any better than my God? Not at all. He is only a pale reflection. Yet so much of the time, I stare at my wounds, at my shame, at my filth and it seems overwhelming. I don’t see anything redeeming, valuable, or lovable.
“It’s hard for me to believe I could be lovely in Your eyes, that I’m really the one You want.
It’s hard for me to believe You would want me by Your side, that I’m really the one You want.
I’m really the one You want.”
And yet the bridegroom chooses to love me. He pays my bride price, the debt I owe. And He returns to take me home.
“And You love me, You love me, You love me still.
You love me, You love me and You always will.”
The earliest memory most of us have of church is singing “Jesus Loves Me”. But it was so much easier to believe then than it is now. But it is just as true today as it was then.