16 months ago I became a father. Among the drove of changes that it brought, what surprised me most was how I couldn't get away from my new name, from the word "father". I have now come to the place of holding that name very dear to my heart but it was in the journey to that place that this song was born.
I was only 23 when my daughter was born; it was a life change that I did not feel at all ready for. There were still so many adventures that I wanted to go on, so much that I wanted to accomplish, and some insecurities and baggage that I wanted to work through prior to becoming a father. I had always viewed the responsibility of fatherhood as daunting; needing to be a strong, stable force of love and wisdom, a protector and guide through all the uncertainty of growing up. I did not feel strong or stable or put together enough to take care of myself let alone think that I had what it took to be a father.
I was raised to believe that there is a father God who is the ultimate father: a father to the fatherless; a father to all the fathers who feel that they cannot carry this responsibility. Sifting through the pieces of words and phrases I've heard about this father in my life, I tried to find an image of something I could connect with even on my most cynical days, something that didn't take a specific state of beliefs to long for. I didn't want this song to be religious, or at least not openly. [Side note: I don't want any of my music to be religious. It limits what I can say, who I can say it to, and where I can say it.] I landed on the image of still waters.
Father, lead me by your still waters
Tranquility and rest. Water has always been a powerful image in my life. It nourishes and sustains us. We all long for peace, a state of knowing that everything will be okay.
Save a place for my daughter
I freak out enough thinking about my own safety and security, both in this life and in whatever follows. Having another soul, another being to provide for and teach along the way is an incredible weight. I know this weight has a different name: love.
With your spirit
The way is dark, how I've feared it
A shaky heart is the courier to guide her through the gray
A shaky heart. A person who still doesn't have his shit together. That is me. In reality, all of us parents to some extent don't entirely know what we are doing. We are figuring it out one day at a time. Becoming a parent has given me a perspective of grace for mistakes that I have seen parents make, both my own and others.
Father, I'll wear the word as I wander
Through all the world with my daughter
This verse shifts the focus to my own fatherhood. I like the image of wearing the word "father" because it goes with me everywhere, I can't get rid of it (I would never want to), and it is not something I can give to myself. Fatherhood is tattooed onto my skin. I realize that I will never fully fix the ways that I am broken. I will never actually be ready for this.
I am broken and faithless
I can't begin to unmake it
A wintered hymn is a worry heard beside me on my way
This song has no bridge, but rather an instrumental. In my head I hear enamoring string lines from a full orchestra; the part I sing is the main melody. Perhaps I'll record it like this some day.
Father, if you hear could you call her
Save a place for my daughter
For my daughter
I love my daughter more than anything in the world and I recognize how unfit I am for the task of being her father. My love for her is a burden that will never lift, but it is one that I will never want to. Graham Greene describes this feeling perfectly in his book The Power and the Glory: "You cannot control what you love—you watch it driving recklessly towards the broken bridge, the torn-up track, the horror of seventy years ahead."
It scares me to death thinking about my daughter's future because of how much I love her, and how much I want everything to be alright for her. This song is a way that I can find peace and know that her life is out of my hands.
Thanks for reading,
Here is a peek into the writer's room. These are previous versions I recorded as the song was taking shape. Warning - these are ROUGH. I personally love seeing the way songs change and develop over time. I love hearing the early crappy versions of songs so I'm posting these.