A ministry friend just asked for the story behind my song, ‘Christ Before Me’. Since I wrote it up for him, I thought I’d share it here as well.
Before I wrote this song, I developed the lyrics as a poem. They are a paraphrase of a section of an ancient Christian prayer called, ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate.’ I used them as part of a spiritual practice where I would write them on a piece of paper, then I would write over them again and again, till they blurred together – speaking to me of how we cannot have hard and fast lines about where Christ is and is not.
One memorable moment of when I was practicing this was on a long haul flight between Singapore and Frankfurt. There was a rather cantankerous elderly gentleman behind me who seemed not to be happy unless he had several things to be unhappy about at once. As a way of trying to calm myself and find some peace, I started to scrawl, ‘Christ before me, Christ behind me’ over and over on the back of my boarding pass. Just as I reached, ‘Christ behind me’ for the umpteenth time, the man behind me started banging on the back of my seat, insisting that I move it forward! I had a moment of profound insight, that Christ was somehow behind me, in the life of this obnoxious old codger. Rather than bristling and calling the air steward to demand my rights, I found myself wondering where Christ was beneath this man’s unpleasant exterior. Something in me seemed to demand that I believe Christ was there somewhere. Perhaps it was Christ within me who was so insistent.
Some months later, this poem became a song that I wrote with my sister in law, Kirstin Cant. I added the chorus, which has given me no end of grief – from people who want to insist that there are lots of things that are not sacred. Most of the time I want to agree with them. But there is this undeniable insistence in me that refuses to relinquish the belief that ‘heaven and earth are full of God’s glory.’ So the chorus remains, and I live with the grumbles, from both within and without.
Of course, I managed to spin out that one verse into three verses by simply changing the ‘me’, to ‘you’ and then to ‘us’. It probably feels a bit of a cheat way to write a song – and maybe it is. But the intent was that this truth begins with us and our encounter with Christ (me). Then it asks that we hold that truth not only for ourselves but for others who may not believe it for themselves (you). Finally, the last stage of Christian maturity (as I see it) is that we realise that there is no ‘them and us’, there is only ‘we’ (us). That if Christ is at work in us all, then we are sisters and brothers, kindred souls, God’s whanau.
You can get the song here. Enjoy.