by Jacqui Crumrine – associate pastor, worship and arts
It’s no secret that singing new songs can be an amazing experience. The Bible tells us to sing new songs! Psalm 96 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.” Psalm 96 really guides what we are to sing and how we are to worship!
You can imagine, then, the daunting task of determining which “new songs” we should sing! I consider a lot of factors like theology, themes, sing-ability for the congregation, to name a few things. At Refuel in August, we introduced a new song, so I’d thought I’d take a moment and break it down. I find that when I sit with the lyrics and chew on them a bit, I can personalize them. It makes my worship experience more powerful and focused. The words become as if I had written them, instead of just words on a screen partnered with incredible music. The following is just some of my thoughts on the song “Graves Into Gardens” and why it became a battle cry in the midst of the pandemic, and the scriptural foundations that make it powerful Truth to proclaim.
Graves into Gardens by Elevation Worship Publishing (CCLI song #7138219)
“I’ve searched the world, but it couldn’t fill me”. This song starts with the state of humanity. We search and we search for fulfillment in the things of this world and we are left unsatisfied. I continue to evaluate the things in my life that I use to fill spaces that God desires to dwell. Whether it be “empty praise and treasures that fade” or something else, they will never be enough. I have to stop looking to the world and myself for the answers. There is only One that satisfies.
“There’s nothing better than You”. The chorus of the song repeats this three times. Some people don’t like repetition, and I can understand that. Maybe they chalk it up to poor songwriting. It can seem boring unless you know what to do with it. When a song repeats, it’s an opportunity to reflect. Each time I sing that line, I’m asking myself a question “Is there something in my life that I put above God?” I’m asking God to reveal things that I need to deal with. Sometimes when I sing that line, it’s a declaration that I don’t want anything in my life to be better than God. It’s also a declaration of Truth; There IS nothing that is better than God.
The second verse digs a little deeper. “I’m not afraid to show you my weakness. My failures and flaws, Lord You’ve seen them all and you still call me friend”. That line floors me. One of the things that the pandemic has revealed in all of us are some areas that we need to grow in! (Can I get an Amen?) I’ve struggled with control, fear, anxiety, control-again, and more. God keeps showing me my failures and flaws, and then in His grace and love, He draws me in and loves me through it. That can be a hard process, but then again “There’s nothing better than You”.
Just in case we forgot what God can do, the bridge of this song reminds us. It’s like a snapshot of scripture packed into six lines.
“You turn mourning to dancing” (Psalm 30:11; Isaiah 61:1-3; Jeremiah 31:13; John 16:20)
Mourning to dancing has got to be one of the hardest things to understand until you experience it. We have a hope that comes from the resurrection of Christ who defeated death. We have a promise and a future. We live on the other side of the cross! We have nothing to fear! There has been a lot to mourn in this season. There has been a lot of loss, but can we turn our eyes to Jesus and allow Him to turn our mourning into joy and gladness?
“You give beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:1-3; Romans 8:28)
In the Old Testament, ashes were a sign of grief, lament and repentance. People would, in intense times of mourning dress in sackcloth and cover themselves in ashes. Not exactly the latest fashion statement, but it was a statement nonetheless. In plain terms, God can take the most uncomfortable, negative, foul, offensive, broken, unpleasant (do I need to keep going?) thing in our lives, and when surrendered to Him, he can make it beautiful. I believe that with all that I am.
“You turn shame into glory” (Zephaniah 3:19)
Guilt and conviction are good things. God wants us to be free from sin, and in order to reveal our sin the Spirit prompts us; that’s guilt and conviction. But shame…that’s a value statement. When we feel shame, we are saying that we aren’t worth being saved. We’re no good. Shame breaks us down without the hope of being restored. God, in His power, wants to take our shame and brokenness and reveal His glory!
“You turn graves into gardens” (Mark 16:1-8)
Christ’s death means new life! God takes things that are dead and with resurrection power brings them back to life. During the pandemic, I found myself staring at some “graves”. There are some things that are ‘dead” and I don’t see how they will have life again. But that’s the incredible thing about trusting in God. I don’t have to worry about it. It’s His job to take things and make them new. I just have to surrender to Him and watch and see what He does!
“You turn bones into armies” (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
Classic Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah. The Spirit gives Elijah a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. God prompts Elijah to speak a prophetic message over the dry bones calling them to “Live!” As he does, the bones begin to assemble, restored. They come to live and represent a great army. These dry bones represented the people of Israel. Do you feel like dry bones? I certainly have in this season. With one breath, God can restore. Receive the Spirit of the Lord!
“You turn seas into highways” (Exodus 14)
What do you do when you’ve gone on an incredible journey, only to find yourself at a dead-end? Or in the Hebrews case (after being freed from slavery), the sea. We’ve all been there. But God turns “seas into highways”. He takes the unimaginable and makes a way.
God is the only one that can do these things. That is what we believe and declare as we sing!
To sum it up, if you get a chance, read through Philippians 3. “There is nothing better than You!” And…if you get a chance, listen to this song. Turn it up really loud and worship (don’t forget to dance)!