And I heard the voice of one speaking. “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. (Ezekiel 2:1-2)
“But God gave me the song, I can’t change it!”
Are these two things the same thing? Um, no. We are song writers, not Scripture writers. That job is kind of done.
But it is worth asking the question, “Does the Holy Spirit give us songs?”
Answer: yes…and no.
Yes; God in Trinity has given me everything I have (Colossians 2:9-10, James 1:16-18, 2 Peter 1:3-8). God has given me the song. He has also given me my gifts, abilities, intellect, experience, experiences, education, time, opportunity. He has given me it all. Everything I use to create a song comes from him, and therefore so does the song.
And no; God has not written my song the way he has inspired Scripture. The apostles and prophets were given a specified and specific (and more important) task than ours as songwriters (2 Peter 1:19-21). When Peter was talking about the Holy Spirit inspiring the prophets, he’s not talking about your garden variety Sunday morning prophecy, he’s talking about Scripture. We want to be inspired by that great songwriter David, but also remember that he was no mere songwriter. He was God’s anointed King and Prophet and Saviour, a descendent and ancestor of the central promises of God.
So it’s problematic to say, “God gave me that song, I’m not at liberty to change it.” Of course you are. Using your God-given abilities to critique, to improve, to listen to feedback, to work hard.
We even check over our Facebook posts to see if they are correct or come over the way we intend them to. What makes us think our songs are beyond that?
Perhaps a better way to think about our task as songwriters is in the way that Paul describes prophesy in 1 Corinthians 12-14. “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church…Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” (1 Corinthians 14:3, 26-29)
So what does that mean for us? Some thoughts;
- Listen to feedback. Learning from each other is kind of a big deal in the New Testament.
- Grow in wisdom, knowledge and prayerfulness. For your own sake, for the sake of your songs, and for the sake of those who will sing your songs.
- Work hard at your songs and your craft, especially lyric writing. (An excellent start is Pat Pattinson’s book “Writing Better Lyrics”.) Everyone can improve.
- Be honest with yourself about why you are resistant to changing your song.
Sometimes the suggestions aren’t actually right. People can have their own reasons for finding problems, and they’re not always good. And everyone has different tastes. But it may also be that we don’t want to do the hard yards of changing it, or of starting again. Or we may have become attached to it in a way that stops us seeing that it could become something better.
When we work hard and emotionally invest in something it can become our baby, and it can be hard to listen to people’s advice on it. Take heart from every successful writer who will tell you the first draft is only the beginning, and that it is always worth the hard yards of making it better. The worst thing that can happen is that the song isn’t improved. You don’t have to throw out the original. And working on songs is never a waste of time, is it? Even if you ditch the song. You’ve worked your muscles, you’ve done the training, so the next song you write will be stronger or easier. (Hopefully!) Either way, it’s done you good.
And if you are still attached to that fabulous idea, line or image and you can’t make it fit, you can always turn it into another song. Freedom is a beautiful thing.
#songwriting #inspiration #holyspirit #critique #improving