What’s the Story behind This is our Story?
You may have noticed that I’ve been banging on about a song that I’ve just released.
At this point, if I’m honest with you, everything within me wants to apologise for my flagrant self-promotion. But I’m not going to. That’s a thought for another time though.
Instead I’m going to answer the question that nobody has asked, but is no doubt on the tips of all your proverbial tongues.
What’s the story behind This is our Story? Wouldn’t you like to know.
See what I did there? Nice.
So, I started to write This is our Story, because I was asked to. Not very glamorous or super-spiritual, I’m afraid. But most things aren’t.
I was leading worship at a conference and the theme was ‘This is our Story’ and so in the months leading up to the event, I had to pen a song to sum up that theme, to act as an anthem of sorts. And so I went about doing that.
My first thought was that our story really has to point to the faithfulness of God. That time and time again, we have seen Him prove His goodness. I was reminded and inspired by the hymn ‘Praise my soul, the King of Heaven’, which is where the first line of the chorus is drawn from. Initially, I also used the line ‘Glorious in His faithfulness’ (from the 2nd verse of the hymn) as well, but that evolved to become ‘Faithful and fearless friend’, which scanned better and was slightly more theme-appropriate.
I wanted there to be a sense of us reminding ourselves of the goodness of God – of the things that we have seen Him do through us. Thinking about Psalm 103 (that Praise My Soul the King of Heaven is based on), where it says ‘do not forget all his benefits’. This is why I wanted to start the verses with the repeating phrase ‘we have seen’.
Within that, I wanted to acknowledge that our stories are not simple, and the struggles and trials we have faced within them are just as much a part of them as the triumphs – hence the ‘bitterness, sleepless nights and desperate prayers’ as well as the ‘miracles’.
I was also keen for this not to be a reflective, introspective song. That it would actively praise God for what He has done. But it would also call us to ‘go’ in the light of what we’ve seen Him do. To remind us that ‘He goes with us’ and that actually, the story hasn’t finished yet – it is ongoing. Just as we will ‘never find the end’ of His goodness, our story with Him is not yet finished.
At this point in my writing, I encountered a slight problem. I’d plagiarised Ben Cantelon. It happens to the best of us.
The start of my chorus melody was exactly the same as that of ‘Be High and Lifted Up’ (what a choon). And it was the same word too. No wonder it sounded good.
So, I had to go back to the drawing board with the chorus melody to avoid embarrassment and a cease and desist order from everyone’s favourite Canadian worship leader.
Once I’d done this, I took a first draft to the leader of the conference for his feedback. It was he who suggested that I took the second verse to tell the story of Jesus and link us to the greater story that God involves us in. Pointing to the fact that it’s not really ‘our’ story – it’s His. And we’re just joining in.
So that’s where the second verse came from. And then that’s pretty much a finished song.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that. I agonised over different choices of word in the chorus, the length of the pre-chorus, what versions of the bridge to fit in and plenty more besides. I asked too many different people for advice and then I couldn’t take all of it. But eventually I had to choose to finish it – perfect or not. And that version is the one you can listen to today.
I hope that provides at least some insight into the not-so-glamorous fun and frustration that is my songwriting process. Every blessing upon you and your family and your cat. And your cat’s family.