Sunday, April 6, 2008

Empty & Beautiful Part 1: YOUR GRACE IS ENOUGH

The bottom line: this song rocks and you can pray it too! Or, why you should spend 99 cents on a song you have three copies of already.

I wanted to really dissect this song and exuberantly exclaim why I love it so much but the reasons aren't very complicated- the words are great, it's fun to sing, it has strong imagery, it makes an excellent prayer. I guess a lot of it hinges on this last bit because it is a good mix of worship.

I'll poke my head in a conversation worship leaders have with themselves and the Lord about how to balance songs that are introspective in the sense that we like to "pray" very me-focused songs. ("I Could Sing of Your Love Forever"? Great song, but also very self-centered in a certain sense.) The psalms have this tension as well; how do we pray GOD centered prayers that plausibly come from a human heart? Matt's lyrics in this song really hit a nearly perfect balance on this problem because it biblically describes God's personality and activity and then turns it around with a plea and praise in response. Great is Your faithfulness Oh God, You wrestle with the sinner's restless remember your people, remember your children...your grace is enough, heaven reaching down to us...your grace is enough for me.

Not to add to what has to be the stupidest "controversy" ever but this song instead of being "better" or "worse" than Matt's original or Chris Tomlin's cover, genuinely feels like an organic evolution that weds the strengths of both versions. Chris' is slightly simpler and more singable (VERY TOMLIN), Matt's original was a little wordy for some people to catch on quickly and not quite as polished.

The Lyrical Breakdown
Matt's original had the opening of the verses going "Great is your [attribute of God] Oh God of Jacob." Tomlin removed this, the E&B version omits it in the first verse and restores it in the second- what a happy compromise! Tomlin also changed Maher's original "You wrestle with the sinner's restless heart" to simply say "You wrestle with the sinner's heart." Matt's newer version reinstates that line. My only beef there is that it makes more sense to restore the "God of Jacob" in the FIRST verse where it is weightier with the lyrics he originally wrote (it makes the clever "you wrestle with the sinner's restless heart" line have more of a biblical context and emphasizes the double entendre).

And finally what I've been waiting to say for this whole blog: I LOVE THE BRIDGE!!! This to me is what makes this particular recording unique. It shouldn't surprise you that I have been trying to find a version of this song that includes the bridge I have heard Matt and Chris sing live (actually Tomlin's live recording on Passion's "How Great is Our God" has the same words but I have heard them both use interchangeable phrases here, which is another great thing about the bridge- it's extremely flexible) and have not been able to. Therefore I exhort all of you to listen (and more importantly, SING) to this recording, the bridge really does its job on multiple levels. It's a nice break in the song musically, it nicely wraps the song emotionally, and even though the words are simple they are true. your grace is enough/heaven reaching down to us/we're covered in your love/your grace is enough for me

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