Close To You (Behind the Song)
In February of this past year, I had the opportunity to go to a retreat center in Georgia with a handful of guys on our staff and lead team. We went with the sole purpose of discussing and planning something big for our church.
I've always admired and respected my lead pastor, but hearing his passion and desire to see our church go deeper in relationship with God while at this retreat center grew that admiration and respect even more. He kept going back to this concept in Psalm 1 of the tree that is planted by the river of God. When the tree is next to the water, it's satisfied, its leaves never wither, and it prospers in everything it does. I sat there thinking, "I want to be this tree." I want to desire God more than I currently do.
Outside the window of the conference room where we were sitting, there was a beautiful tree that happened to be next to a pond. I kept staring at this tree and couldn't stop thinking about Psalm 1. I want this for me, for my family, for my church... so I did the most stereotypical worship leader thing to do. I took my guitar, sat under a tree next to the water, and began writing a song. I was gushing with inspiration and the backdrop was perfect, but for some reason, I couldn't write anything. Well, not anything worth keeping, anyway.
I went home after that weekend and couldn't stop thinking about writing this song about being planted next to the living water. I pulled out my guitar several times over the course of the next few weeks and attempted to write again, but still... nothing. That is, until one day several weeks later, when I opened my Bible to Psalm 42. This Psalm hit me like a ton of bricks because it exposed something in me that I had been trying to suppress. It was then I realized I had been trying to write about being a tree next to water when I really needed to write about being in the desert as far away from the water as possible.
Over the last two years, I went through an emotional crisis dealing with some depression and spiritual dryness. I felt distant from God like I hadn’t felt in a long time. If I'm completely honest, it was scary. So it hit me like a ton of bricks when I read this from Psalm 42…
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.” – Psalms 42:1-8
Prior to 2020, I think I had gotten to a place where I was comfortable splashing around in what little puddles of comfort and success I’d experienced in my life. But when everything shut down, it was like God was drying up some of those pools of comfort and removing the puddles of success and other finite wells in my life, leaving me dry and desperate. At the time, I couldn't see it. But now I realize that he did this so that in the depths of my desperation I would long for the waterfalls and oceans of his unfailing love.
I know firsthand that many people have experienced some of the most challenging days of their lives in just the past two years. And all I can say is that I believe with all my heart that God has been preparing us to experience and desire depth with him as we've never experienced before. Just like the children of Israel, God is removing us from the comforts that may be associated with slavery, and dragging us into the pain of the wilderness; so that in our desperation, we will long for him more than ever. And that in our desperation, we would long for the living water that truly satisfies.
I wrote this song as a personal prayer for me, for my family, and for my church, that no matter what circumstances may come, God would use them to bring us closer to him.