In multiple interviews about this dual release, Smith said he was inspired by Amos 5:23-24, which talks about how God is more interested in justice than in the "noise" of believers' songs.
The albums are simply this: call and response--a call to love horizontally, and a response to praise God together. Smith essentially declares that before we get together to worship, let's make sure we're loving one another.
With 25 songs between the two projects, it became clear that the ebb-and-flow, back-and-forth wasn't just in relation to the albums as a whole. Many of the songs on one record have a counterpart on the other, and in this piece, I'll take a look at the interplay between the themes of some of the songs on Surrounded and A Million Lights.
"A Million Lights" from A Million Lights & "Light to You" from Surrounded
The obvious connection between these two songs is the use of the word "Light" in their titles, but it goes deeper than that. With "A Million Lights," Smith is singing about the beauty of creation; in "Light to You," He's singing about the beauty God sees in us. While he sings "Even my darkness is light to You," he also sings "I know I'd never be alone / Even if darkness comes our way." In the chorus of "A Million Lights," Smith sings: "For you all the stars are singing," and with "Light to You," we realize that we are those lights.
"Conversation" from A Million Lights & "Your House" from Surrounded
The song "Conversation," as best I can tell, is all about seeking the mind of Jesus--being able to see people the way He does, not the divisive, isolated ways we develop. Much like the line of thought connecting the albums, "Conversation" is a prayer for a loving perspective, and then "Your House" is an invitation to worshipful unity: "Join the song of the earth... One voice calling out, the King is among us."
"Something in My Heart" from A Million Lights & "King of My Heart" from Surrounded
There's a definite "heart" connection between these songs--both of which are the third track on their respective albums. "Something in My Heart" sings of a hesitant heart that needs a "spark," while John Mark and Sarah McMillan's "King of My Heart" shows the result of an awakened heart: one that trusts the Lord as "the mountain where I run... the fountain I drink from... the shadow where I hide" and other places.
"Footsteps" from A Million Lights & "Build My Life" from Surrounded
Smitty has said he dedicates "Footsteps" to his recently departed father, who showed him the way in life and in faith. He sings, both in reference to his dad and Jesus, "As long as I can see Your footsteps, I'm alright." Similarly, this rhythm of being led comes in "Build My Life," where he sings: "Show me who You are and fill me with Your heart / And lead me in Your love to those around me." The concept of following in God's example fully embodies both songs.
"Your Love" from A Million Lights & "Reckless Love" from Surrounded
Love is a theme that is, unsurprisingly, all over both records--lyrically, thematically, and even in the song titles (four song titles contain the word). With these two songs, there's a proclamation of the endless/reckless love of God, our undeserving nature of it, and our deep need of it. It almost is like "Your Love" asks the question and "Reckless Love" answers it: "I cross the ocean and I searched the sky / For the riddles and the reasons why / You give a beggar like me a royal life" ... "Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God / Oh it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the 99 / I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still You give Yourself away."
"Love Always Wins" from A Million Lights & "Surrounded (Fight My Battles)" from Surrounded
There are only two lines in "Surrounded (Fight My Battles)," and they basically declare that true strength comes from trusting God, that He surrounds us. The reason we can "fight our battles" by declaring the supremacy of God is because "it's written and it's always been / Love always wins." Both of these songs put forth simple, yet profoundly life-changing messages that stick with you.
"Crashing Waves" from A Million Lights & "Do It Again" from Surrounded
With "Crashing Waves," there's a lot of attention paid to the struggles of life and a desire for God to "roll the stone away." Smitty sings, "My heart is beating fast, loud and clearer / The promises at last are coming nearer!" This hope in God's promises carries over into Elevation Worship's song "Do It Again," featured on Surrounded: "Waiting for change to come / Knowing the battle's won / For You have never failed me yet // I know the night won't last / Your word will come to pass." In the midst of difficulty and doubt, these songs declare a faith in God's promises, and remember that He has moved before and will again.
"Louder" from A Million Lights & "Great Are You Lord" from Surrounded
Many churchgoers are familiar with All Sons & Daughters' biggest song of their career, the declarative "Great Are You Lord," and this song pairs well with Smith's original, "Louder." While "Louder" encourages an unnamed person to "let it out" and "play your symphony," the refrain of "Great Are You Lord" takes that to its utmost conclusion: "It's Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise... Great are You, Lord."
"Revolution" from A Million Lights & "Miracles" from Surrounded
The very poetic "Revolution" speaks to needing to build a bridge to the other side, to "build another kingdom" in the midst of a "suffocating" rat race. It's a tall order, as "the carousel keeps on spinning," and things keep going on the same. But "Miracles" reminds us that "The One who does impossible / Is reaching out to make me whole." While "Revolution" calls us to build bridges with others and with the Kingdom of God, "Miracles" shows us that God is doing a bunch of bridge-building of His own.
"Forgive" from A Million Lights & "Washed Away" from Surrounded
The song "Forgive" is all about those moments we have felt wronged by others--hurt and rejected, forgotten and ignored. But more than that, it's about laying down the "heavy crown" of our own offenses to forgive, something Smith says is "the sweetest sound." Similarly, with "Washed Away," a refrain of the forgiven rings out: "All my sin was washed away... you took them all, there's not a trace."
"You Make Me Feel This Way" from A Million Lights & "Here I Bow" from Surrounded
"How great the love, how strong the hand that holds us," sings Smitty with "Here I Bow," the beginning of a song that is all about worshipping the One who loves us well. Similarly, that euphoria of being loved is communicated with "You Make Me Feel This Way": "Your song is in my head and it keeps spinning around / Like walking streets of gold with diamonds in my eyes / I can't explain it, how the world just comes to life."
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
NEW! EXCLUSIVE INTERVEW
Danny Gokey: A Hope Encounter Danny talks to NRT about his upcoming...
NEW! BEHIND THE SONG DEVOTIONAL
#938 - "Drown" by Zahna Hard rocker Zahna speaks to Kevin Davis...
Five Throwback Singles That Tell A Story NRT's Jessi Ellerbe recalls five songs...