The Dallas-based singer/songwriter BETHANY DILLON talks us through the tracks on her new album
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After two months of being a "Mrs", we were back home in Dallas from our spring tour. The dust had settled, and the newness hit us. . . or at least it did me. I remembered reading a passage where Paul talked about marriage (1 Corinthians 7) and used the word "divided." I knew in my head that marriage would "divide" my time, affections and attention, but knowing and experiencing are two different things! So, one night I was sitting on the couch and started thinking about this new pace of life. I asked God what he thought about it - about the new, natural dividedness of my days - and tried to start thinking of what more I could DO. He kept leading me to passages like this one in Matthew 7, where Jesus was warning the disciples about a similar thing: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you, depart from me.'"
I don't know if that hits you like it does me. . . but something in me shivers when I read that. I am prone to doing more when I feel busy, but Jesus sets a new standard that's harder to take. . . we can DO all we want, and still neglect knowing him and being known by him. My thoughts have wandered back to that passage a lot this past year. In all the changes of life, I'm still called to know him and be known by him.
"So Close" - I remember sitting in the front lounge of the tour bus last fall, having a few minutes before I needed to go back in the venue. I started singing the words that were rising to the surface of my very broken and unfaithful heart: "I'm so close to being so far away from you." I wrote it down in my journal. Minutes later some people walked on the bus, and the night went on. And, as you've probably guessed, he didn't leave me alone on that tour, not even that night. Even in my most undisciplined, faithless days, he is still faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). Whether we all talk about it or not, I know that inward groaning (Romans 8:23) and constant struggle (Romans 7:15-25) happens in all of us. It's what makes us squirm when we finally are alone in a quiet room with nothing but the unfiltered truth of who we really are and how short we really have fallen. And, honestly, it's not the end of the story for us, but I also think it isn't good to skip right over it either. It's healthy to face our humanity! It's good to realise that we are absolutely unable of saving ourselves. After all, isn't that the first half of the Gospel?
I love how candid Asaph was in Psalm 73 about his ongoing wrestling match with his flesh: "As for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped." But then he goes on to say in verses 26 and 28: "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. . . For me it is good to be near God."
There are so many more places in the Word that speak to this very thing, but I'll just share a few here. ". . .they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. . ." (Acts 17:27)
"All that the Father gives me comes to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from Heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." (John 6:37-39)
In case you didn't notice, that was Jesus talking! What a promise! And what a miracle that he is doing that in all of us! He won't lose us or cast us out. . . and no matter how far away we feel, we cannot escape his love.
"Reach Out" - I was drawn to the stories of Jesus' encounters with people in the Gospels while writing for this record. One story in particular, about a woman who'd suffered with a discharge of blood for 12 years, intrigued me. It's found in Mark 5 and Luke 8. Ironically, I heard a sermon about this woman around the same time and decided to write a song about it. I didn't know this before, but according to Jewish law, to add to the sadness of this woman's life, she was probably an outcast, living outside of town, alone and in constant pain. She also probably snuck into town that day, hid herself in the crowd, and waited for her opportunity to get close to Jesus.
What's so moving about her story for me is her abandon. She had reached this point, a depth of need, that she was willing to risk her life to get healed by this man named Jesus. Her urgency is tangible on those pages - she couldn't reveal her presence there, so she pushed her way through until she could just touch the hem of his garment. What I really love about this woman is that she took advantage of being in Jesus' presence. Once she touched the hem of his garment, she was instantly healed. Jesus stopped and asked, "Who touched my garments?" "And his disciples said to him, 'You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, "Who touched me?"' And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.'" (Mark 5:30-34)
"Deliver Me" - I think it's pretty common with newly married women, but at least for me, I went through a time of really struggling with insecurity. I was constantly comparing myself to other wives. My mind would race every time I was around someone thinking, Is she prettier than me? Is she deeper? Is she just plain better? And then those thoughts would spiral downward into a completely self-conscious, self-absorbed place, leading to a lot of resentment and fear. All of that said, I'm really, really grateful for Jesus. He is my righteousness because I have none on my own! And truly, the Father disciplines those he loves. The only thing worse than being confronted in your sin is being totally left on your own in it (Hebrews 12).
The night I wrote this song, we had some friends over for dinner. In the back of my mind I had been comparing, judging and totally not loving the wife of this couple. My pride had taken over, and every last drop of joy and sisterly love had been drained out of me. After they left, I went into the living room and was reminded of a story I'd just read in Daniel 4 about pride. It tells the story of powerful King Nebuchadnezzar who reveled in his own glory until God drove him into the wilderness where he lost all of his belongings and, literally, his mind. I love Nebuchadnezzar's words at the end of his story. Seven years pass, his mind returns to him, he's restored to his palace, and he is glorifying God for his discipline. "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of Heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble." (v 37)
So, that evening in my home, with my own ugly pride being interrupted by the warning and loving discipline of God, I was reminded of his ability to humble me. He alone is God, and I am desperate for his discipline in my life.
"The Way I Come To You" - I love being married to Shane for lots of reasons - one being, how much I've learned about loving Jesus from him. Truly. Maybe it's because he didn't grow up in a Christian family, but whatever it is, he is constantly talking about the glory of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I've never met someone who quotes Isaiah 53 more often than Shane. And the longer I spend time with him, the more the familiarity of the gospel story fades, and I'm hit with the reality of the Son of God giving himself up and being raised from the dead for sinners like me!
This record is probably the most confessional record I've ever made. These songs feel a little more raw to me than usual. It's probably just true the more life goes on, the more aware you are of your failures and struggles. And with that, in a believer's life comes - odd as it is - a deeper joy.