For the entirety of my adult life, almost like clockwork, every two years or so I have been given the gift of being “forced” into taking stock. I’ve often told people that I don’t know how to write songs if I’m not writing them out of my life, out of my own personal experience, and so for me I think it’s inevitable that any new group of songs will tell some sort of story about where they have come from. And so for the last 15 years, 8 times to be precise, thanks to the deadlines that the powers that be “impose” I have been given the gift of taking stock, of evaluating where I have come from, what God has been unfolding – to unpack, assess, organize, and then repack those thoughts, questions, failures, triumphs, mysteries, and prayers into a group of songs that will make up a new record. And from these sort of extended therapy sessions there always seems to rise to the surface a certain theme that in one way or another every song speaks to – as if the collective retrospective of the songs somehow seems to give clear vision into the season of life from which they were derived. It’s like my own personal yearbook full of images, descriptions, collages, and signatures of all that have taken part in writing my narrative; but somehow the clarity of the narrative isn’t apparent until you’re thumbing through the pictures and marking pages weeks, months, or even years later.

The title track of this new record is a song called “Ocean,” and it is, fittingly, a prayer. “You are an ocean, that I can get lost in, the first wind on my shore / You are the sunrise to open my eyes, and the dark night is no more / You are an ocean.” The overwhelming emotion that seems to rise as a theme to the surface of this record, and this song in particular, is the search for real identity – where we find it, who we are, where we draw life from. As I wrote in my blog from a few weeks ago, “Idols of Misdirection,” I have spent most of the seasons of my life drawing my identity from the gifts in life that I have been given, rather than the giver of those gifts – be it occupation, marriage, fatherhood, relationship, or even theology and intellect.  The irony is that I’ve always imagined that the older we get, the more comfortable we become in our own skin.  And although that certainly is true in a lot of ways – we begin to accept ourselves for who we really are, we recognize our weaknesses and begin to work our way through (or around) them, we come to terms with reality and “adjust” our dreams to fit within its more “realistic” parameters – on a more eternal scale, I find myself understanding less and less, and wondering more and more. Not wandering, wondering.  The thought of it would have frightened me into seclusion years ago, the not knowing, but today I feel comfortable there somehow – resting and reveling in the idea of wonder, of wonderment. Because wonderment has a direction, it is not an aimless search, but targeted awe. Brennan Manning, in his book Ruthless Trust, describes this as the kabōd, the glory of God, “the divine and terrible radiance…that no human can [grasp or] understand,” the “otherness” of God that when experienced exposes and allows the self-absorbed “human tendency toward projection – ascribing to God our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes about ourselves and others – [to be] unmasked in all its absurdity.”  He goes on to say:

The reality of kabōd shatters every delusion. As previous certainties desert us, we become vulnerable and open. The glory of God makes possible the primordial act of religion:  the realization that we are not sufficient unto ourselves, that we have received our life and being from another. In a decision that reaches the roots of our most intimate self and demands the renunciation of belonging to that self, we freely ratify our condition as creatures. Through this fundamental act of dispossession we acknowledge the illusion of control and open ourselves to the reality of God.

If those words rhymed they would be the words to the song “Ocean.” It is a feeble comparison, all wrapped and weak in human projection, but standing before the ocean is as small and humbled as I ever feel on this planet. I know that we are called, compelled even, to be in the world, exposed and engaging our culture, but I am the sort that can so quickly draw my identity from how that world responds (or doesn’t respond) to me. This song is my prayer that I be hidden in the identity of Christ alone or else, even if just for a day, I become an island unto myself, self-absorbed in self-sufficiency. However incomplete my experience of the kabōd, the absolute and unrivaled glory of God, may I drown in it, lost in my complete and singular identity as a child of such glory. You are an Ocean.

Here’s a link to the song “Ocean”


18 Responses

  • James wrote on September 24, 2010

    Thanks for the song!

  • Tweets that mention Ocean | Bebo Norman -- Topsy.com wrote on September 24, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Overture Media, Ron Shank, Brentwood-Benson, Kevin Chandler, Josh Collins and others. Josh Collins said: new blog and new song posted yesterday - Ocean - http://bit.ly/azxPaf (via @bebonorman)//Its good! [...]

  • Frank W. wrote on September 25, 2010

    Hey. Thank you for giving the world your heart through music. Its a better place for it. Your ability to connect with other people through your music helps us know we are not alone in this life. My kids love it too.

  • Joan Barlow wrote on September 28, 2010

    From the first time I heard your songs 15 years ago or so I loved your vulnerability. It remains my strongest tie to you and your music. I can so relate. Thanks again for continuing your heart's work.

  • Justa Carraway wrote on October 21, 2010

    I read a little something similar to this post over at google news... I became intrigued and then began searching around, and then landed at this site... at any rate, I believe that I somewhat agree with what you cover here. However I am going to go see what else I can find as well.

  • jean groenendyk wrote on December 12, 2010

    I have a very rare disorder that i am suffering thru--(it's big name is BILATERAL TRIGEMINAL NEURALGIA R/T POST HERPETIC NEUROPATHY AKA damaged 5th cranial nerve on both sides due to cold sores inside my mouth) and it is med resistant--it takes much much redirecting my brain to focus on other things than constant pain--and bebo----your music --all of your cd's----help me forget my pain while i am listening- thank you and please cont to be pure, and faithful to GOD , your wife and children and then singing---i want to go to a concert of yours! when are you coming to michigan?

  • Sarah wrote on May 7, 2011

    I love the ocean, so calm and peaceful. The song captures it beautifully.

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