Something that has intrigued me for a long time, as far as writing music goes, is the opportunity you have to share a little of yourself with those who will take the time to listen to you. In the past I have blogged about the meaning of some of my songs. I have kind of purposely avoided writing an explanation for the lyrics to Lift Up Your Eyes. I did this mostly because the song seems to take on a different meaning for whoever is listening to it. The history of the song is simple enough…
A couple years ago Andy Ferris, the Ada Bible Church worship director, was putting together a cd of original songs for our children’s ministry that would focus on and revolve around the story of the Israelites being raised up out of slavery and delivered by God in the story known as the exodus. He asked me if I would be interested in helping to write some of the music, and being a pretty new song writer and singer at the time I thought this was a good opportunity to get some experience and stretch myself a little. So as he explained the idea to me of what he wanted to do I got very excited and began thinking over song ideas. Now most every song I have ever written has usually taken me a while to put together, I mean like weeks or months, or longer in some cases. This song was for some reason very different. Andy explained his idea to me at church on a Thursday evening at around 9pm, and I literally had the song nearly finished, at least in my head, before I reached my car in the parking lot at 9:30ish. I rushed home to get the idea down on paper and make a really crappy recording on my computer, which I immediately sent to Andy to see what he thought. He responded with a “sounds good” and we rolled with it.
The song to me at that moment was literally about the Israelites being raised out of slavery. No real secondary meanings or symbolic imagery or anything. I just got that hook in my head…”Lift up your eyes, O Israel…”, I started reading over the story of the Israelites, and looked up some verses to help me focus on how much it must have sucked to be under the whips of Pharaoh’s task masters, and wrapped a song around that hook. To me, when I wrote the song about 2 years ago now, it was really just a cool tune that I had kinda slapped together for a kids album, and now that it was finished I could move back towards the business of writing the really symbolic, personal, poetic stuff I was trying to write.
What happened next was pretty unexpected. I played it for my family first, and after they got past the initial shock that I was smart enough to write a song, they started talking about how good they thought it was. They started playing it for all their friends and co-workers and I was very pleased that my family and a few others thought it was good. I was satisfied. But then things started getting weird. People were asking me to come to their church and sing the song. I was asked if I would play it at a funeral. I was even asked one time by a young woman who ran a children’s dance class if I would be willing to play the song while the kids in her class did a routine to it around me. I turned that one down. What I started to notice through all this was that people were seeing the song as more than just a song about the Israelites being brought out of slavery. People were relating the song to the struggles they were currently going through. That was exactly what I had wanted to accomplish with the more “mature, sophisticated” music I was trying to write. The fact that this song, that I spent literally about 5 minutes on, accomplished that floored me.
Now, with the attention the song has gotten on the radio, I have had a whole new group of people come to me with what the song has meant to them. How it helped them with going through a divorce, failing health, losing loved ones, financial problems, and the list goes on. My original idea of what this song was about has been completely shattered, and I am ok with that. I love that God used the one song I didn’t think would go anywhere to completely take me wherever He wanted to take me. That I have learned is how He works. I have nothing to do really with where I am. He will take me where He wants, and do with me what He wants to do. He gave me the words and music for that song in the way and time that He did because He had a plan for it and how people could be ministered to through it. If nothing more comes out of the events of this past month or so, I am completely ok with that. The opportunities for ministry and working in other peoples lives, and seeing God work in other peoples lives has been amazing, and its made this last month rather intense in my relationship with God. It has really rejuvenated my spiritual life when I feel like I was at a rather dark spot. Not that the problems I had have gone away, but I was given a much needed affirmation that God is working in my life. And so now there is the meaning of “Lift Up Your Eyes” to me. When the floor seemed to be dropping out from under me spiritually, God broke in and gave me a much needed reminder that in the moments when I feel most alone and abandoned, He is most present with me.
So what does the song mean to you? I would love to hear more stories of how people have been helped by the song, and how God has worked in peoples lives through it. It doesn’t even have to include the song, just tell me a little about yourself, give me a prayer request, whatever you want to share. Leave comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.