BEHIND THE SONG WITH KEVIN DAVIS
#731 - "Sparrows" by Jason Gray
Jason Gray captures God's gentle care for our anxious hearts in this moving new song.
 



Ever since I first heard "Blessed Be" by Jason Gray from his album All the Lovely Losers, I was hooked by the emotional and biblical messages of his songs. In fact, that song was the 8th song I featured for my "behind the song" devotional article series which started back in March 2008. I've since featured twelve more of Jason's songs and now this is our 14th devotional together, making Jason the most featured artist over the past eight years and 731 song devotionals.

I'm always excited to hear new music from Jason. One of my Top 10 Albums of 2014, Love Will Have the Final Word, opened with the radio-friendly and fun song "Laugh Out Loud" and the hit "With Every Act of Love," showcasing Jason's gifts as a songwriter. Jason has recently released his follow-up album Where the Light Gets In with 13 new recordings, including "Glow in the Dark." 

If you like singer-songwriters who wear their hearts on their sleeves and sing about the truth of what it means to walk with God and work out their salvation with fear and trembling, then don't miss out on one of Christian music's most treasured artists. Jason has once again invited listeners into his story of faith as each song features Jason's unique brand of gourmet lyrical phrasing embedded with the truth of the Gospel for those "with ears to hear." I had the chance to speak with Jason about "Sparrows."

Please tell me the personal story behind this song.

The lyrics for this song and the pre-chorus were a real struggle, which may be surprising because they seem a little straightforward. Originally the line was "no one walks alone, you're not on your own" because it fit the music, but I was wrestling with it. In our culture of Christianity, we're not very good at honoring people's feelings. We don't encourage people to feel their feelings, but instead to judge or manage their feelings. That's not healthy. 

When you are in the midst of something awful happening, like what I went through, you feel alone. When you are in that place it helps to say what you are feeling, and I changed it to "you may feel alone." If I'm authentic about the pain and the loss and the loneliness and the confusion, then my hope is more authentic as well. It's a small line, but I thought it was important to change the musical flow of a pop song for the integrity of the line. I'm glad you asked me about that lyric. I wanted to be truthful, and we do feel alone and abandoned sometimes. 

I met with Mia Fieldes and Jonathan Smith in co-writing this song. A beautiful thing about getting older is that you get more humble. The older you get, the more you realize what you don't know and the more valuable and realistic view you have of your self-doubt. That's a challenge as a songwriter, because song writing requires a good amount of ego, like "my ideas are awesome." There's something about that confidence that helps you get songs done. If you begin to not believe in yourself, it's hard to get songs finished. 

I have things to say, and I wanted to challenge myself to learn how to say them in a new language. I worked with all new co-writers for this album. We decided "Sparrows" was a cool song title. We knew it would be based on the verse where Jesus spoke about the sparrows.

Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?

Matthew 10:28-30 (NKJV): "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

Matthew 6:25 (NIV): "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"

James 4:14 (NKJV): "Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."

Ecclesiastes 1:2 (VOICE): "Teacher: Life is fleeting, like a passing mist. It is like trying to catch hold of a breath; all vanishes like a vapor; everything is a great vanity."

What is the takeaway message?

The Lord knows how inclined we are to fear. Two of the greatest weapons in the Enemy's arsenal against our hearts are fear and shame. There are hundreds of verses that tell us to not be afraid, and one of the most poignant of those is where Jesus is speaking and knowing how fragile we can be in our anxiety, He tells us that God takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and how much more He cares for us. The language Jesus uses is tender and gentle. Consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields, and aren't we worth so much more? There's a tenderness to it that is so kind and gentle. I wanted to capture that sentiment in the song. 

I was reading a book, and the author talked about how we are in a season where the world is in the grip of chronic anxiety and we can see the symptoms all around us. One of the symptoms is that we tend to vote against the incumbent. We place our hope in change and in a quick fix. We still end up feeling anxious and do it all over again. People rally around someone else's confidence, and our anxiety can drive us to look for security in all the wrong places. I went through therapy after my divorce, and one of the things that became clear is that I've always known I'm very analytical, and that's a gift and a curse. I'm recognizing that my analytical nature and thinking about things is my attempt to control things and protect myself so I don't get hurt. I learned that most likely came from when my parents got divorced. That became my way to cope. 

Rallying around someone's confidence is our attempt to get away from our nagging and debilitating anxiety. That's not where the peace that passes understanding comes from. It comes from believing that we are loved. The same God whose eye is on the sparrow, His eye is on all the details of our lives and He's got the whole world in His hands. He's got this moment. Over half of the world's core struggle is anxiety. I wanted to intentionally write a song for that heart. My hope for this album is to have a calm voice to speak into the storms of life. The mode of our transformation is death and resurrection.

Lyrics:
You can't add a single day by worrying
You'll worry your life away
Oh don't worry your life away
You can't change a single thing by freaking out
It's just gonna close you in
Oh don't let the trouble win

You may feel alone
But you're not on your own

(Lalala) if He can hold the world He can hold this moment
(Lalala) not a field nor flower escapes His notice
Oh even the sparrow
Knows He holds tomorrow

Lean in and it's hard to miss
Everything can change
When you make it His
Oh He wants to carry it
Carefree in the care of God
When you let it go
You'll find that He's enough
Oh you never leave His love

You don't walk alone

(Lalala) if He can hold the world He can hold this moment
(Lalala) not a field nor flower escapes His notice
Oh even the sparrow
Knows He holds tomorrow

There's not a single star that's out of place
There's nothing broken He can't remake
If you long for hope when you're afraid
Oh look at the sparrow
Look at the sparrow

(Lalala) if He can hold the world He can hold this moment
(Lalala) not a field nor flower escapes His notice
Oh even the sparrow
Knows He holds tomorrow
(Lalala) even the sparrow knows
He holds tomorrow


Every song on this album is a great reminder for followers of Jesus trying to live out their faith and looking for creative expressions of worship. If you are looking for the words to express your feelings to God, these songs are a wonderful companion. This entire album is loaded with relatable lyrics, incredible singing and prayerful themes about what it means to be a child of God. This album really captures what it means to be loved unconditionally by Jesus. I love knowing that in my brokenness, I am actually closer to God. It is so wonderful to know that failing by the world's standards is what we are called to be as devoted followers of Jesus.

We are in a fallen world, and if you take the truth of what it means to follow Christ, you know you weren't made for this world. We all need to remember that earth isn't our permanent home, and as expressed in God's Word, "life is a vapor." I've long admired about Jason's ability to create an accessible and catchy melody and a personal connection to a deep and meaningful topic expressed in a memorable way. We need to remember that "You can't add a single day by worrying."

We all deal with a level of self-doubt and feel alone sometimes, and I appreciate Jason's intentionality to speak the truth about that topic and not try to judge or manage our feelings. This song and the biblical truth behind the song is such an encouraging reminder of God's sovereignty and that He has been, is, and always will be with us. If God is with us, we can endure anything. I have spent time reflecting on and singing this song to God, and it always gives me comfort. This song is a beautiful way to express our devotion, and it gives me hope and inspiration as one of God's children. For me, songs like "Sparrows" provide opportunities for God to whisper to me my true identity: not found in what I do or don't do, but in who I am, and most importantly to whom I belong. When you feel alone or are questioning your place in the world, know that "you may feel alone, but you're not on your own." Amen to that!

Watch the lyric video below.
 


 

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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