My Hiding Place (Psalm 32): Story Under the Song
Updated: Jun 6, 2020
The “My Hiding Place (Psalm 32)” lyric video is forthcoming.
Hear the episode for “My Hiding Place (Psalm 32)" on the Understory podcast!
Read the lyrics here.
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"Story Under the Song" for “My Hiding Place (Psalm 32)”
track 5 from Child Coming Home (album, 2019)
WHERE DID THE SONG COME FROM?
From 2016-2019, I taught 3rd grade and choir full time and lived 15 minutes away from the school. As I'd walk there each morning along the road, I'd hum a Bible verse to myself to prepare my mind for the day.
In fall 2018, I was piecing my way through Romans when I found this section in chapter 4:
But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.” - Romans 4:5-8
I'd been working with a different melody in verses 1-6 of Romans 4, but the appearance of this intriguing cross-reference of Psalm 32:1-2-- what we'd call a "hyperlink" in the Internet age-- made me change my tune to the one you can now hear starting at 0:27 in "My Hiding Place." After taking a voice recording of the melodic idea, I moved on with the school week and with the following verses in Romans.
During 2018's Thanksgiving break, I went to a family gathering at my in-laws' house. As ever, the conversations and the kids were boisterous, but louder still to me were some feelings of guilt and self-accusation I was carrying in my heart that day. Eventually, I felt like I needed to be somewhere safe and quiet, and I excused myself to play my in-law's old upright piano. Once there, I put my Bible on the music rack, flipped it open to Psalm 32. and played around with the melody I'd recorded from Romans.
I was surprised to find that as soon as I figured out and recorded the A section (verses 1-2), I could already hear the melody for the B section (verses 3-4). Then, after reusing the A section's tune for verse 5, I found a new tune for the C section (verses 6-7). After an hour or so spent hidden away in the song, I reemerged to my family with a lighter heart. Not only did I have a voice recording of the whole piece, but I also had a heart loosening into the spiritual safety of God's forgiveness.
HOW DID THE SONG GROW?
After my school's 2018 Christmas program I chose pieces for the spring program. One was this new setting of Psalm 32. I knew that the children of the third-to-fifth grade choir would sing their best if I conducted, but at this point I didn't have an accompanist.
My co-worker Craig's wife Molly Marie had accompanied my high school choir the previous school year. This year, three of her children were singing in my third-to-fifth grade choir, so she said she'd accompany us for Psalm 32. I wrote out a musical score for her, and twice a week throughout the spring of 2019 she joined the choir to rehearse.
We had our concert in May of 2019 in a gorgeous, vaulted Lutheran church. The space gave a beautiful touch of reverb to the children's voices and to Molly Marie's accompaniment. However the piece may have been received by anyone else during that performance, hearing the words of Psalm 32 sung so beautifully by the children touched my heart anew with wonder.
That wonder was an enduring gift to me as I wrapped up the school year and transitioned out of teaching full-time. The particular sound and emotional resonance of the children's voices in that big church continued to affect me even as the summer began and I started making Child Coming Home.
Honestly, the wonder from hearing the kids sing Psalm 32 was what birthed the rest of the album. It's almost as if the way that the kids gave voice to the truth of Psalm 32 shook something loose in my heart that I didn't know was stuck.
WHY DOES THIS STORY MATTER?
That loosened thing-- buried as it was under the duties of parenting and teaching-- was my own story, which runs along the same lines as the "prodigal son" story that Jesus tells in Luke 15:11-32. It's also the story of the Singer which Child Coming Home tells. In essence, it's a story of remembering who your home is after wandering away, and then returning to find a warm welcome waiting for you. It's about finding safety and acceptance on the other side of asking for forgiveness.
By summer of 2019, I'd realized that Psalm 32 would be the centerpiece or hinge of Child Coming Home's story. At this point in the album's story, the Singer's learned to sing Psalm 32, he's already started his spiritual journey; he's heard the voice of Jesus, and he's responded to the call by leaving his former life. In short, through the Son, he's now a child of God.
But as with any father-son relationship, the Singer's connection to God has certain restrictions and privileges. One such restriction is acknowledging that God, as Father, is his authority. That means that God, not the Singer, defines what's right and what's wrong.
Another restriction is that God, as the good Father that He is, cares deeply about the way His children behave, and, when they misbehave, He disciplines them so that they can become like Him. As the Singer continues his journey, he learns that he can't live how he wants, and that ignoring God's guidance leads to discomfort and pain.
But through the words of Psalm 32, the Singer also learns about one of the most profound privileges of his sonship-- namely, the spiritual safety a relationship with his Father affords. Along with the other children you hear in the track, the Singer learns not only to acknowledge but to rejoice in the spiritual safety he has in God.
In terms of the album's overall plot, then, Psalm 32 gives the first glimpse of what the Singer's "home-coming" will mean. Ultimately, through Jesus, as the Singer learns to walk as a child of God, he's learning to confess God as home. There are elements to this truth that Singer still has to learn through experience-- elements captured, for instance, in the next song "Wonderlost"-- but for now, that's the story of "My Hiding Place (Psalm 32)."