Story Behind The Song: The Kingdom Is Yours
The Kingdom Is Yours
There are two phrases I pray people utter when they hear this song. First, “God shared his kingdom with me! Praise the Lord”. Second, “Thank God for Brittney Spencer.” If not for her strong and valiant efforts to make this song an anthem for ALL who are in places of pain and transition, this beauty would not exist. We set up the back room of the Orbison estate at my first Common Hymnal writing camp. Myself, Micah Massey and Brittney. Micah brought us to the idea of the beatitudes because they had been inspiring and challenging him for some time. It wouldn’t take long before it was doing the same to us individually and collectively. We don’t often think inspiration and challenge can coexist, but go watch Steph Curry and then try to hit a half court shot = case in point. To me the apex of the song is the weight and lift of the last verse. We were originally aiming that verse to honor fallen martyrs for the faith and, make no mistake, they and their legacies deserve our respect. But it was in Brittney’s heart to make it more open ended. Not only for those who have been bruised for the church, but those who have been bruised by the church. May all who hurt find hope and comfort in Christ.
This song feels so serious and sobering that I must break the ice with a somewhat hilarious fact— admittedly, I was actually preparing lunch and making sandwiches for the 35+ people that were attending the writing camp while Micah and Dee wrote the majority of the chorus. The chorus turned out amazing, as did lunch. Ha!
Dee, Micah and I began writing this song shortly after Aaron Keyes gave a beautiful message on brokenness and fragility. Aaron questioned why it’s so hard for people, especially Christians, to be honest when something is wrong. When we’re facing the worst moments of our lives, we still feel some ridiculous pressure and obligation to muscle through pain and respond the way we think we’re supposed to.
Dee and Micah were friends. I was a stranger. Moments after the three of us took up residency in the back room of Roy Orbison’s house to write this song, Micah asked how I was doing. Still feeling undone by Aaron’s words, I responded, “I’m not OK.” I began revealing some truths I couldn’t believe I had the balls to say to strangers, all while Dee picked up his guitar and started turning those truths into melodies and lyrics. Micah then cited The Beatitudes, and now the rest is history.
“The Kingdom Is Yours” took a while to complete because the words were so important to us. We wanted to make sure it represented all sorts of people in this world. If I’m honest, in the days, weeks and months after writing the song, I thought the words for this song might’ve been too simple, not sophisticated enough (silly me.) It wasn’t until a year after it was written that I understood those very qualities will cause this song to speak volumes in places where heart and soul outsmart cerebral elitism any day.
We had the opportunity of a lifetime. I, along with the common hymnal team, were to spend 3+ days dreaming, learning, and writing in the former homes of Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison (who happened to lived across the street from one another). The sun shown golden bright the first morning of our stay as I spent the first hour on Roy Orbison’s porch, reflecting on the Beatitudes. On the outside, everything seemed…well, perfect. Still, there was a disruption in my soul as I read the words of Jesus. Blessed are who? The poor? The hungry? Sure I had read this many times before, but there had been some particularly devastating events in the news that week and the words seemed a little more ridiculous than usual. I wanted to say back to God…”Have you been paying attention? That’s not the way the world works! That’s not even the way the Church works!” As I continued to reflect on these matters, a deep anger boiled up in me.
Later that morning, before we broke out into groups for our first writing session of the day, Aaron Keyes encouraged the team with a powerful message on the importance of lamenting in worship. It was at this time he said something I’ll never forget: “God can’t wipe away tears we never cry.” I was stunned. I thought about how often I had led people into a form of worship that wasn’t honest. I asked myself how many times I’d ignored the heaviness of grief within my congregation. Had I given them language in worship to accompany their seasons of hardship, or had I encouraged a photoshopped worship that worked hard to “cover up the flaws?” I cringe now even thinking of it.
Not long after, I found myself in Roy Orbison’s office (maybe where he wrote Pretty Woman!) along with Dee Wilson and Brittany Spencer. We were reflecting on Aaron’s message when the topic of the Beatitudes came back to the surface. This time, the words of Jesus seemed to come alive. They seemed truer than ever. As I took a breath and paused for a moment, the Father gently reminded me that the Beatitudes may not be the way the world or the “Church” works, but it is in fact the way His Kingdom works. Somehow, it is in loosing that we find, it is in bowing that we rise, it is in weeping that we are comforted, and it is recognizing our brokenness that we enter the path of healing. “The Kingdom is Yours” was written to encourage those who are fed up with the shallow life of the world and maybe even the so called “Church.” It’s a reminder that God’s Kingdom is on the way, bringing with it the promise of restoration and true life.
We were having a conversation about being more raw and vulnerable in worship songwriting. So many of our worship songs lately are heavily skewed towards the victorious, triumphant, conquering aspects of the Christian life--and so few of our worship songs lately address our mourning, weeping, serving, and persevering. In a time of such national divisiveness and widespread despair it can be easy to simply lose heart and lose hope. But this song calls us to remember: the Kingdom belongs to us, so we never need to lose hope.