Singer/songwriter Melanie Penn recently released her fourth single from her upcoming More Alive project, I Want to Know You. Melanie writes pop songs at the crossroads of faith and culture. The artist, now based in Manhattan, was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Falls Church, Virginia. So far, Melanie has released four albums, with More Alive becoming her fifth project.
In the style of my favorite singer-songwriters, Christa Wells, Sara Groves and Ellie Holcomb, I can’t get enough of Melanie’s thought-provoking songs. I connected with Melanie about one of my top gourmet songs of the year, “I Want to Know You.”
Please tell me the personal story behind this song.
I'm not really known for writing worship songs. It's a departure for me as a songwriter. I’m more of a storyteller; I'm not typically well-known as a Christian music artist. Initially, I started writing songs with a mission to offer music that meets people where they are, regardless of their worldview. Because of that, I hadn’t really written a worship song. And, nowadays, worship as a genre is so pervasive--that’s what is expected.
I started writing the songs for this project a couple of years ago in Nashville, with my producers Cason Cooley and Ben Shive. For me, the song's chorus came out of nowhere. Ben started writing the song and came up with the chorus. And, I completed it.
Because I’ve been a worship leader for so long, they encouraged me to write a worship song as they felt my storytelling ability was needed in the worship space. I think writing a worship song is a real gift (Brooke Fraser's music, for example), edifying for the church. When I started to approach writing "I Want to Know You" from the perspective of wanting to share in Christ’s sufferings, I realized that’s where my heart should be as a human being and as a friend of God.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
Philippians 3:8-9(NIV): "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."
1 Peter 2:21 (NIV): “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example; that you should follow in His steps.”
Psalm 139:17-18(NKJV): "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You."
Ephesians 5:14(NIV): "This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'"
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.”
What is the takeaway message?
Writing this song scared me a little, especially as that passage in Philippians is so convicting and challenging. Sharing in Christ’s sufferings is not something I normally pray for. I struggled with the challenge of singing about wanting to share in Christ’s sufferings, to be honest. It is important to me that I only sing something that I mean. I was wrestling with that concept over Easter and then I realized that sharing in sufferings is the core of friendship. It feels great to think about sharing in God's glory, but what about sharing in God's sufferings?
At first, it seems like something to avoid. But, then I consider my friends and loved ones, and when they suffer. Don't I suffer? When my friend has a broken heart, doesn't my heart break, too? The deeper the friendship, the deeper the shared suffering. That’s typically when your friendship deepens: after you’ve gone through suffering together. That’s what sharing in Christ’s sufferings is about.
If God is my friend, then what breaks God's heart breaks mine: illness, oppression, evil in the world, loneliness, and isolation. To be impacted by the world's brokenness is to share in Christ's sufferings, and experience friendship with God. That's a depth of friendship worth singing about. Sometimes you can sing the words and mean them later. The act of singing these words opened my heart to these scriptures. My prayer is that others can have that same experience.
I’ll set my eyes on things above When all I see is here on earth I’ll listen only to Your love When all I hear are empty words
I want to know You and be known by You I want to find You and be found by You I want to share in Your suffering as a child of God I want to know You and be known by You I want to find You and be found by You I want to share in Your glory as a child of God I want to know You more Everything I have I’d give it all away Count it all as loss Compared to what I’ve gained
I want to know You and be known by You I want to find You and be found by You I want to share in Your suffering as a child of God I want to know You and be known by You I want to find You and be found by You I want to share in Your glory as a child of God And I only rely on Your resurrection to bring me to life
Daily, we're presented with lifestyle choices, time management, and pursuit of riches. It's overwhelming living for today, not knowing what tomorrow has in store for us. Not to mention questioning our loneliness, looking for meaning.
Take comfort in the words from Philippians 3:8: "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."
God's thoughts and love for us are deep, such as cannot be known. We cannot think of how many mercies we have received from Him. As the Lord knows us thoroughly, and we are strangers to ourselves, we should earnestly desire and pray to be searched and proved by His Spirit and His Word.
We need to truly be free in Christ, as well as be happy and filled with joy. We're in a fallen world dealing with the fear and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.” Our freedom from the restlessness of this world will come when we enter the true rest that can only come from living eternally with Jesus Christ.
As we prepare our hearts for Easter, “I Want to Know You” has become a personal anthem for me to sing daily. By reading the bible, God wants us to have a daily reminder not to be afraid. The song also addresses the concept of keeping our eyes wide open, to remember our calling: "wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Ephesians 5:14).
We serve a God who has infinitely more for us than we can think or imagine. This song reminds me to have resolve as a follower of Jesus, to keep my eyes wide open and find ways to serve Him for our good and His glory.
“I Want to Know You” is a transparent, vulnerable and moving worship song. It's a beautiful offering of praise and worship to Jesus. From this song, I'm challenged to commit to pray more fervently, study God’s Word more diligently, and give more sacrificially.
“I Want to Know You” stirs my heart and increases my convictions to grow closer to God during my worship and devotional time. We all love our comforts, and this song challenges me to think more of others and to share Christ more than to focus on myself. The cost of discipleship is to make Him the Lord of our lives.
One of my daily devotionals in trying to grow in my walk with Jesus is to sing to Him at least one praise song every day. I suggest we spend time with the Lord and try praying and singing along with this great song of praise and adoration. The lyrics of this song completely wreck me: “Everything I have/I’d give it all away/Count it all as loss/Compared to what I’ve gained.”
What a powerful expression of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. He is all we need. Join in with Melanie as she prays out to Jesus: “I want to know You and be known by You/I want to find You and be found by You/I want to share in Your glory as a child of God/And I only rely on Your resurrection to bring me to life.” Amen to that.
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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