|What Faith's About | Posted January 28, 2013
If Jenny Simmons looks or sounds familiar, it's because she's no new kid on the Christian music block. Chances are you've heard the former lead singer of Addison Road before on songs like "Hope Now," "What Do I Know of Holy," and "Fight Another Day."
After having invested ten years in Addison Road, when the touring stopped and the band dissolved, Jenny found herself overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of her new day-to-day life. So much so that a trip to the grocery store ended with her confusedly clutching a box of spaghetti and sobbing in the arms of a stranger. Jenny recounts the whole tale in "Aisle 7 and the Evil Spaghetti" on her blog, Cupcakes, Sprinkles, and Other Happy Things.
So how did Jenny Simmons get from crying in aisle 7 to releasing her first solo project, The Becoming? Answers are found in the music. Let's start at the beginning:
"Where I Belong" starts with uncertainty as Jenny confesses, "I don't know where I'm going." But her voice and the music soon become confident and purposeful, not because she has the answers, but because she trusts that God does. And what's important is not finding her own place in the world, but resting in faith and walking with God: "[I] don't need a place to call my own / Cause with You I'm right where I belong."
Jenny wrestles with negative "what if" questions in "What Faith's About". That is, until the chorus turns those doubts on end and the "what ifs" become positive. That's what trusting God does to our outlook. As the lyric states, "When it looks impossible, but still works out / What if that's what faith's about?"
The first song written for the project, "Heaven Waits For Me," is about the promised reward awaiting believers of Christ. In Jenny's words, this song is about "living in the tension of life and death and embracing every beautiful thing in between." It's about choosing to live in freedom rather than in fear, because death isn't the end; Heaven waits.
Jenny's voice dances along to the music in "This I Know" as she celebrates: "Jesus loves me this I know.../ This love is unconditional / So at my worst or at my best / He don't love me less / He can't love me more / This I know for sure." The carefree melody and drum beat, and Jenny's glee combine to make this tune irresistibly sweet!
Sometimes we dance and sometimes we cry. Jenny deftly combines the personal and the scriptural, the individual and communal, in "Broken Hallelujah," a song that seems destined to contend for Song of the Year. It's about finding faith, or holding onto it, even when we are broken: "I'd almost given up, and then I found this place / Where broken children gather and they sing their Father's song / My heart was aching at the sound / I had to sing along..." She continues in the refrain, "And find me on my knees / with nothing left to hide / I'll be by the river / leaving all my shame behind / I'll be singing loud / I'll be singing clear / Broken hallelujahs for everyone to hear."
Jenny knows that God can bring beauty from destruction. But it may take time. So, in the gorgeously organic "The Becoming," she cries, "Jesus, meet me / Be everything I need / In the waiting / In the in between / Jesus, hold me / And keep me from running / Cause I don't want to miss / The beauty of becoming."
"Letting You Go" strikes me as a "Dear John" letter to the enemy, in this case the security offered by the world. "If I hold this life too tightly my heart will break / And it's time to say goodbye to everything I've ever known / But I choose freedom."
Jenny sings again about leaning on faith through life's trials in "The In Between." The song is ultimately about the freedom that comes from surrender: "Throw away my plans / And I finally feel free / I can dream again / See where Your spirit leads / And I will cross this desert ground / Cause what was lost can now be found / Here in between."
In "Don't Lose Heart" we are reminded that God never promised life in Christ would be easy: "Following the Great Unknown might cost you everything." And though we might feel lost, we are never alone, and Jenny draws on Psalm 27:13 to comfort her listener: "He began a work, He will complete / We'll see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
The album closes in knockout fashion with Jenny's own soulful take on the Leonard Cohen-penned "Come Healing." Her voice perfectly matches the beauty and power of Cohen's words. Grand in scope, her recording conjures images of throngs of believers coming to Jesus for healing. Told from the Savior's perspective, the song is a blessed balm for the wounded sufferer: "O, Gather up the brokenness / And bring it to Me now / The fragrance of those promises / You've never dared to vow / The splinters that you carry / The cross you left behind / Come healing of the body / Come healing of the mind / And let the Heavens hear it / The penitential hymn / Come healing of the spirit / Come healing of the limb."
Though The Becoming is not lengthy--the ten songs clock in at just under 38 minutes--it lacks for nothing. Jenny Simmons has poured herself into this record. The writing is solid and the performances commanding. The result is an honest, deeply personal chronicle of her journey marked by a vulnerability and authenticity that is sure to capture listeners' ears and hearts.
Thematically, The Becoming is shaped by Jenny's life lived "in between." There are threads of doubt and suffering in the songs, but woven in amidst the darkness and pain, there is faith, joy, hope, and healing. It serves as a reminder that sometimes you have to get lost to be found. You have to be broken to be healed.
This is an important album that ministers to searchers and sufferers. It provides encouragement and comfort to believers who might be struggling. And more significantly, it sends an important message for seekers and new believers: there is no magical moment after which the life of the saved becomes safe, easy, and worry-free. Life can be hard, messy, and heartbreaking. These songs realistically show what faith in action looks like. Sometimes that's holding on to Jesus. But more often, it is Jesus holding on to us.
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