While surfing the internet last year, I clicked on a link to an album and heard a clip of Audrey Assad’s music for the first time. Wow, I thought. This is different.
Most Christian music fails to connect with me at a very deep level. For better or worse, I tend to fuss over musical styles or lack of lyrical artistry. But when I heard Audrey, I felt like I’d met a friend. Her clear, soothing voice and poignant lyrics immediately struck me.
Audrey’s debut album, The House You’re Building, played on repeat in my CD player for several months with only brief breaks for other music. I flew to Phoenix, Arizona, last spring to visit a friend — and to hear Audrey in concert.
So when her second CD, Heart, released on February 14 this year, I was prepared to like it. From the quirky instrumentation and catchy tune of the first song, I was hooked. “Blessed Are The Ones” is a joyful anthem and a realistic picture of marriage. In collaboration with songwriters Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken, Audrey wrote this song shortly before her own wedding. Its lyrics speak to the humility and generosity that marriage requires, and the chorus presents a declaration of beautifully stubborn love:
So further up and further in
We have nowhere else to go
We’ll plant the seeds of toil and tears
It’s beauty we will sow.”
The second track, “Even the Winter,” continues the theme of commitment in a relationship, asking difficult questions:
What if we find ourselves beneath the snow
Our warmest words all frozen our throats?
And all we feel is left out in the cold…
What if the days grow short and lose their light?
What if the coals burn back and the embers die
And we can’t find each other in the night?”
Audrey answers the questions boldly, asserting that:
Even the winter won’t last forever
We’ll see the morning and we’ll feel the sun
We’ll wake up in April, ready and able
Sowing the seeds in the soil of our love.”
In the midst of recent complications in a dating relationship, the lyrics of “Even the Winter” struck a hopeful chord deep in my heart. Audrey writes of the kind of committed love that works through issues and emerges renewed, again and again. It’s the kind of love that reflects our Savior’s faithful love for us.
Heart’s third track, “The Way You Move,” also speaks directly to my situation with a voice that’s clear and hopeful. With its subtle R&B flavor and passionate vocals, this song is possibly my favorite on the album. Audrey accurately captures a sense of complete dependence on the Lord and powerlessness against His working. The song is a white flag of surrender, acknowledging that God is the one moving, changing us, and loving us. At one point she describes Him as a “Lion standing in my house … taking off the doors on [His] way in.”
Later in the album, “Breaking You” speaks directly to the brokenhearted. The lyrics, as usual, are deeply honest and equally hopeful, not underestimating the pain of heartbreak yet offering hope to emerge from it and live again. I listen and think, This is how I feel, and also, She must have experienced these feelings. The pain is real, and the hope is real.
“O My Soul” is a hauntingly beautiful, a contemplative prayer to abide in Christ’s love rather than holding onto anxieties. With increasing vocal intensity, Audrey declares in the bridge:
Your worries will never love you
They’ll leave you all alone
But Your God will not forsake you
O my soul.”
Next, Assad presents a contrast to quiet contemplation with a pair of catchy tunes that declare a loving relationship with God. The upbeat chorus of “Won Me Over” gets stuck in my head:
I was full of fear and prone to wander
Lost and lonely ’till the day You won me over
You won me over
I was halfway gone and going nowhere
Half alive until the day You won me over
You won me over.”
The eighth track, “No Turning Back,” is just as upbeat as “Won Me Over,” and cleverly punctuated with clapping and snapping. Instead of singing about the joy of initial salvation, though, Audrey explores the joy of an ever-deepening relationship with God as we stay close beside Him, captivated by His love and laughter. It’s the stubborn love from the first two songs about marriage applied to a relationship with Jesus. My heart sings along, especially with these verses:
I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to find
There’s something in Your laughter that keeps me running after.”
It is His laughter that keeps me chasing: because I know He is ultimately a God of joy and love, and that one day all the sorrow of sin will disappear and there will be nothing left but His laughter and us to join it.
In “Wherever You Go,” Assad introduces the idea that God follows us down every path, even when we are running from Him. Unlike a parent or a lover, He is faithful despite our faithlessness:
Fathers and mothers don’t always come through
But I’m never going to stop following you.”
This is God’s stubborn love, the commitment that is so committed it doesn’t make sense to human minds.
“Slow” is musically interesting, with a sound reminiscent of 1980’s piano ballads. Its lyrics also speak clearly to recent situations in my life, painting the need for patience in a beautiful way:
Faith is not a fire as much as it’s a glow
A quiet lovely burning underneath the snow
And it’s not too much,
It’s just enough to give me hope
‘Cause love moves slow
Love moves slow.”
As I listen, I take a deep breath and remember that His ways and His timing are paramount — that they are what I want, despite the impatience I feel.
To finish out the album, Audrey sings another poem in “New Song,” essentially a prayer for inspiration. The final notes of the album are Audrey’s clear voice, haunting and soft, acknowledging the mortality of our bodies and our complete dependence on God to supply our needs:
All I am is breath and vapor and shadow
And all I have is what I need
And this I know.”
Audrey writes from her heart, and through her music God speaks to my heart. What seemed like a random click on an album link over a year ago now appears as a divine provision of encouragement.