Studio

Album #10 & The Garden Of Wonder

December 17, 2015 — Jon Foreman

"My grandma used to say that there are a few things you're not supposed to talk about at a party: sex, politics, and religion. And yet, these topics are the ones I sing about night after night."

My grandma used to say that there are a few things you’re not supposed to talk about at a party: sex, politics, and religion. And yet, these topics are the ones I sing about night after night. I can sing painfully honest songs in front of a thousand strangers easier than I can talk about these things with my closest friends. It’s odd, and I wish it weren’t true- but it is.

We all have holy cows. Unmentionables. Darker elements of our live that we protect from the practical questions of the real world. It might be a parent who drinks too much, or a friend who has a hard time keeping a job. Or worse yet, maybe it’s my own issues and problems. These are the places I’d rather avoid- they’re painful, vulnerable, and awkward. But diving into these places of tension can be the beginning of a beautiful transformation. These dark spots are also incredibly fertile soil for songwriting. And sometimes the song can be the first step towards change.

"Sing about your deepest fears. Don't pull punches. Swing as hard as you can. You're not alone."

Fertilizer doesn’t smell good. It’s not the kind of thing you’d ever want to dive into. And yet, the rank stench of feces gives way to the sweet smell of flowers. Music has the same power: the song can craft something elegant and true out of the rotting death of the present and the past. Ironically, the new life feeds on the decaying bones of the old. It’s a necessary evil for growth and beauty and transformation.

I’ve often thought of The Maker as an incredible songwriter- making something beautiful out of the pain. And I believe that he’s still in business: re-making, re-deeming, re-leasing, re-newing. There is no church building that could possibly contain a God like that. Nothing is out of bounds. Which means none of my thoughts, questions, fears, or failures are out of bounds. The curtain has been torn forever. I am the temple of the Living God. Me. This dark mess of pride, lust, and apathy- I am the arms and feet of Christ? Truly astounding.

And yet, I don’t always act this way. When it comes to religion I tend to play with the kid gloves. Not just with my songs either- in my thought life I tend to act as if God couldn’t take a punch. What kind of a God do I believe in? If he’s not big enough for my doubts and fears and shortcomings then he’s not God after all. Robert Frost said, “The best way around is always through.” And he’s right. “Don’t run away,” I tell myself, “Face the dark places.”

A while back I had the privilege of meeting one of my musical heroes. He gave me some songwriting advice that I will never forget. “God doesn’t need a lawyer,” he said, “Your job is to be honest.” I need these reminders more than anyone. That which is hidden is empowered. So bring it to light. Face your shortcomings. Sing about your deepest fears. Don’t pull punches. Swing as hard as you can. You’re not alone.

"God doesn't need a lawyer," he said, "Your job is to be honest."

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