Child Coming Home: The Story
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Hi! Lord Sycamore here. I wanted to take a minute and talk about what this album "Child Coming Home" is about-- tell you a little bit of the story and the idea behind it.
So the story is about a guy who I've been calling "the Singer." He does a lot of singing.
And in the first song, "New Apartment," he's living in an apartment. And he's in this relationship where things are moving a little too fast. And he has, all the while, this desire for something more-- a deeper relationship. Something that lasts. Something that doesn't move so fast, and something that leads to more as well -- children, a home, that kind of thing.
So he's got those desires in him. But as you find out by the end of the song, that relationship doesn't work out for him. The girl ends up leaving, and he's by himself in the apartment looking toward the future.
Aching To Be Had
The second track is called "Aching to Be Had." And this one is picturing the Singer down by a river. He's out in nature and he's having some time to reflect. And he's starting to ask some deeper questions and starting to recognize that his desire for a home and for a family and for relationship-- they're actually pointing beyond themselves, as it were.
He's questioning the fact that he's in the world, and that there are things, and that he exists. And so he's wondering, is this all a picture pointing towards something else, something bigger? And he's aching for that belonging-- that existential belonging, you might say-- wanting to belong in a really deep to someone or something.
Come to Me (Matthew 11:28-30, WEB)
And the third track-- it probably has the longest history of any of them, in the sense that I've worked on it in a couple different groups and ensembles. But on the album it's an acapella because I pictured the man in his apartment, basically--
And these words are taken right out of the Bible. They're taken right from the very words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30. And basically, I pictured him having been visited by some friends-- or some new friends, maybe-- who were Christians, and who wanted to share with him the news about Jesus. And one of the passages that they shared with him was this one from Matthew 11.
And basically, what Jesus does in this passage, is invites the people who are weary-- in a sense, the people who are aching (at least, that's how the character connects with it) to be had-- Jesus invites them to follow him, to take his yoke.
And yoke being the thing that goes on the neck of an ox and leads it as it's doing its work. And this is an invitation to people who labor and are weary, and Jesus is inviting them to more work.
But what struck me as I thought through the passage, and as I thought through how the character would interact with it is-- though it's really a crazy thing to say, "come work for me," to someone who's already dead tired-- what the invitation really is is an invitation to belonging, and with that belonging, ultimately, rest, which is what Jesus offers in the second half of the verse. "I will give you rest." And he'll teach us, too. He's not just going to leave us as we were.
And that's why, if you listen to the countermelody part that the ladies in that acapella track are singing-- my wife and sister-in-law, actually-- they are singing a quotation from The New World Symphony by Dvorak-- and specifically, the part that's been repurposed into the song "Goin' Home." Or, that tune that many of us know-- (singing) Goin' Home, Goin' Home.
And so I took that little snippet because I realized that this call to belong-- or, this call to follow and to work-- is, in a sense, an invitation to come home. And the man, the Singer-- in the album-- though it's not really realized in the music-- you can see from the rest of his journey, he accepts that invitation.
And he understands it on some level as, this is calling me to a different destination than the one I thought I was on.
So the album really has two subplots. One is the story of the man and how he wants a family and he wants a home-- and, spoiler alert, he actually ends up getting a family. He ends up getting a home.
But there's really this more profound and foundational subplot, which is connected, and which the story about him getting a family is really just a picture of, which is that there's a deeper relationship he's being called to.
So this next song, "New Dawn," really becomes the beginning of that subplot. So this is a song for whom the world has been really dark, and for whom life does not-- and God, you could say-- is not seeming to offer you very much.
Maybe this character, the Singer, has started following Jesus. And he's run into a lot more difficulty than he anticipated. People are not really seeing where he's coming from. They might think he's crazy, Maybe he's seeing that it's actually requiring him to give up a lot of what he previously loved and cherished.
For example, in "New Apartment," he has some-- I guess you'd say-- moral choices that he makes, in terms of his relationships, that the Bible pretty clearly says "that's off the table if you're going to be a follower of Jesus." So that could be a pretty painful thing to give up.
At any rate, this song "New Dawn" is speaking to him-- this could be something that he hears as he's engaging in a Christian community and being shaped into the image of Christ in following after Him-- where he has to give something up or pass through loss.
But the call to him is, like it says in the Proverbs, that the path of the righteous is like the noonday sun-- or the morning sun-- shining ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
He's going in a direction where things are getting brighter. And the future of the Christian because of Jesus and the hope that he's offered-- ultimately, the hope of the resurrection-- is a very bright one. So he starts to get a glimmer of that in this song "New Dawn."
My Hiding Place (Psalm 32, WEB)
The song that comes after that is intended to be the hinge of the story. So he has to learn how to follow after God and learn how to go on this journey. But fundamentally, there has to be a moment-- and it's often a repeated moment-- where we give up our efforts to justify ourselves before God, where we try to make ourselves right with God-- either by following His law or doing something great for Him.
And this song "Hiding Place" is taking the words of Psalm 32 from the Bible and saying, "Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh does not impute iniquity, in whose spirit is no deceit."
So basically, the man who says to God, "I'm in the wrong," is the man who God puts in the right. The man who confesses his sins is the man who God forgives because of Jesus's death on the cross.
And what's amazing about that to me is that's the doorway-- if you want to think about it that way-- into this new life with God. And what's the Singer finds, which is why in all my picturing of this album "Child Coming Home," previous to this song, I pictured the Singer as a grown man. He's somebody who's grown up and learned the ways of the world.
But at this moment, there's a transformation that happens. And by the end of the song, if you want to think about it this way, he is a child again. He's a young boy.
And the reason for that being, when we say to God, "I was in the wrong; please forgive me," what we're essentially saying is, "Dad! You're in charge of me! I recognize I don't get to live the way that I want to, and I have to obey you! So I'm going to follow your Son who obeyed you by dying on the cross. And that is going to set me free. And that is going to be a blessed, secure, safe relationship. Even if everything else is going wrong, you can be my hiding place." Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh, is what the song says.
So that's also why that song has children singing on it. I am not a great audio technician yet, so my recording session in a walk-in closet with some kids did not go as well as I hoped. I was originally envisioning the track being them singing by themselves. That-- what you hear me singing on that was just a demo take that I sent to them so they would know how to sing it.
In the end, I recognized that as God's providence to have the voice of the Singer in there still.
So after the song "My Hiding Place" is the song "Wonderlost." And that's basically extending and elaborating on this theme of, through relationship with Christ, we are children of God-- and just inviting those of us who are already children of God but have become weary and jaded through the journey to trust again in God's providence as our Father.
And so "New Dawn" and "Wonderlost" are intended to give strength on the journey. I guess these are things that the Singer would need to hear on his journey home.
The song that follows "Wonderlost" is called "Lilac Orchestra." And for me, this was a pretty personal one, because there came a point in working on the album where I recognized "I'm thinking about this very abstractly, and I'm not dealing with my own story very much."
And I thought of a mentor (and his wife) of mine, talked about a book that really influenced them, where the author said something like, "anybody who wants to write a book has to spend the first couple pages just confessing his sins." And whether or not you agree with that idea, it really struck me because I realized I personally am a sinner. I have to deal with these things.
And sort of like the character in "New Apartment," though not in identical ways, part of my story has been not following God in areas of relationships-- romantic relationships. And so I wanted to start off the song by sort of coming clean about that. That's what the first verse is about-- and recognizing that that choosing evil in my own life was evidence of a heart that was not alive to God, that was dead in sin.
And so the first verse is just coming to terms with just how spiritually dead I and, you could say, the Singer, in his journey, was. It's recognizing the truth of what the Bible says-- before we believe in Christ, we are dead in our sins and our trespasses.
But the second verse-- full of good news! The Son died for sinful men. And the Son was raised for our life and for our justification. And in trusting in Him, we too are made alive. And that was the amazing thing about writing this song-- was just getting to recognize what God has done in my own heart, in my own life, and how much grace He has on offer for the worst of us sinners. So the first two verses of "Lilac Orchestra" are about that.
And the song in whole sort of summarizes what the story of the album is about-- which is starting in this place of spiritual death, moving to this place of spiritual life. There's the bridge, which recognizes the glory and the beauty of Jesus dying for us. The song marries a musical image of an orchestra with a botanical image of a lilac and brings them together in this idea of seeds, of what we sow and what we reap. At least, I hope it brings it together.
And then, in the final verse, after the spiritual part has been not wrapped up, but gone through-- up to this point in the album, it's been this spiritual subplot-- at this final verse, this third verse, it then introduces the fact that the Singer-- and for me, too-- does get to have his dream of having a wife, of having children, of having a home-- all of that just crammed in there, in the third verse.
And like in the songs that follow this, this original subplot of having a physical child-- or children-- and wife and home-- that gets reintroduced. But, in some sense, it's almost like the heart of the Singer-- and of me-- would have considered these too ultimate if this stuff hadn't been dealt with first.
And that's not to say that people can't get married or have kids before they become Christians. That's not the point. But the Bible is pretty clear that marriage itself is a picture of a spiritual reality, of Christ's union with His church.
And so that's what I was trying to illustrate by having this part of the physical wife and child and whatever come after the spiritual subplot. That's also how it panned out for me-- God in His grace saved me. And soon after-- a year and a half or so-- I did meet my wife. And we got married and that kind of stuff.
After "Lilac Orchestra" is the song "New Father" which is about having a kid and just recognizing how crazy that is and what a blessing-- and also how it exposes how much I lived for myself before, even as a believer-- and how much the Singer lived for himself before.
And so the song tracks how having a kid even as a child of God really makes you grow up as a child of God. And ultimately, just like marriage is a picture of the union of Christ with His church, and there's a physical picture of a spiritual thing, in "New Father," what the song is really about is the Singer (and me) recognizing that the physical reality of having a kid and that relationship you have with the kid is a picture of what your relationship of what your relationship as a child of God is like to your Father.
And it's better, though, because unlike all of us mortals, that relationship is not going to get tugged apart at some point by death or by loss. This relationship of God to our Father, our everlasting Father, just goes on and on.
That's where the album starts wrapping up, because the desire that the Singer has for home, and for relationship, and for a wife and family and that kind of thing-- you start to recognize over these album, these are pictures of how God is at work in the world and what He does for us and in us.
And ultimately they point toward our ultimate home, which is God Himself-- God as Father, God as Lover, God as the person who calls you into relationship with His Son, who died for us.
Aching To Be Had (Reprise)
And this is why "Aching To Be Had" comes back as a reprise, because the man's been given what he wants, in a sense, at this point in the album. He's gotten all his desires fulfilled. But the lyrics change slightly. And the lyrics change, basically, to say:
You've made me rest beside the waters
You gave me who was blind a new kind of sight
You even went and made me a father
After how I left the way I didn't think I had the right
You taught me how to breathe; you helped me reach out for your hand
But my heart is full of longing, longing that you taught me to name
Oh, I'm aching to come home, to be settled in your land
Oh, my body needs belonging, belonging that I've not yet gained
So the man's heart, now, is at rest. The Singer's heart is at rest by this point. This is the journey he's been on: his heart has the belonging it wants, but he's recognizing "my body doesn't. I'm still here in the world. And the world's broken. And it's not what I need. What I need is God.
"And God is going to come back. He's going to come as His Son and He's going to bring us home to Him. But I'm still waiting for that to be finished. And I've still got this longing. I know what it is now! It's not like back in Track 2 of the album where I was just sort of hurting. Now it's almost like a warm hurting. It's a hurting with a name. It's a longing with a name. It's a longing for God."
Passing Through (Psalm 84, WEB)
And that's why the [album] ends with Psalm 84, "Passing Through," because it's recognizing that this whole journey of going through the world, of loving and having the things, the good gifts, that God gives-- of a family and a child and a home and all that-- those things are not enough. They're just pictures. We're just passing through.
And the heart of a Christian is a heart that says, "God, I want to be home with you. And I want to know you. And I'm not going to be satisfied until I have that."
So that's where the album ends where it does, because those desires are expressed perfectly in Psalm 84 by saying I'd rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents [of wickedness]. I don't want to be one of those people who thinks the world is all there is and sets their heart on that stuff. There's an eternal God who loves me and sent His Son to die for me, and that's who I want to be with.
So in essence, "Child Coming Home" is about the journey of a man wanting God-- learning to want God as his ultimate home and true treasure.
Going on a Walk
(Bonus Track - listen here)
"The bonus track?" you might ask. "Going on a Walk?"
Chronologically, it doesn't fit in the story, because it talks about there being two children. And only one shows up in the story. And for me, that was sort of how it played out. But it's expressing the contentment and the satisfaction of walking with God and your family through changes and in finding out that your family's getting a little bit bigger-- which it did for us in November 2019 with the birth of my daughter.
So in a very large 25 minute nutshell, that's what the album "Child Coming Home" is about. Hope that helps. Hope that encourages you to seek after God as your home and your ultimate treasure. Thank you for listening, and enjoy the music. God bless.