Release Date: July 21st 2017
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
“…Somewhere along the line of my young life, I adopted the belief that the solution to any problem is to work harder. If something isn’t working, it’s because you aren’t working hard enough. You’re not putting in enough effort or not being creative enough to see how this can be fixed. To be able to work hard in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, a hard work ethic is a commendable virtue. What happens what the almighty hard work isn’t working? What happens when things keep falling apart no matter how much I try? Massive amounts of effort and well-calculated risks, difficult decision making… what happens when it all fails me? I can tell you because I know. It crushes you. The weight of your own worldview can crush you when it comes tumbling down. This is true of ANY worldview or system you have in your mind of “how the world works” or as I more jokingly refer to it “the game”. And when enough of your constructs have disappeared and you have no more context for your hard work or your struggle, it can feel like you aren’t left with much but disorientation and disappointment…” Isn’t it odd for me to review yet another song from Emily Irene Fertig, former lead singer of SHINEBRIGHT? I just reviewed “Whole” around a month or so ago (you can read the review here!) so why do you all need to hear me talking about “Devotion”. Well first off, I think this song is the most important song you will ever hear all year. Yes, you read that right. The most important. Note that I said that and not the most popular or catchy. And I’ll get to that a bit later. But first things first- if you haven’t heard of Emily Irene Fertig, then take a read of my review of “Whole” where I delve into how Emily and her husband Nathan decided to end the band, then God called Emily into music once again.
‘…Because, I’m sure you readers and listeners of music are well aware- an artist’s work is never done. Think of Peter Furler, Phil Joel, Paul Colman, Jason Dunn, Tauren Wells, Lacey Sturm, Kristen May- all of these vocalists left their bands, but were not fully done with music either- God was still calling them to do what He wanted them to do, and that is touch people’s lives through song. The same goes for Emily, who through a series of God-orchestrated moments (of which you can read here!), found herself back in music…’ This quote from my first review, was written so well, in my opinion, that I have since decided to place it here as well- and the song “Devotion” is further testimony from God about Emily’s story, that His ways are higher than any of ours, and all we need to do is trust Him in all things. So let’s dive deep into “Devotion”, shall we?
Stylistically different to “Whole” and also SHINEBRIIGHT’s discography, in the fact that the piano is at the forefront here, and it’s a Jesus Culture inspired worship ballad; “Devotion” majestically opens with haunting piano riffs, and an atmosphere of surrender and vulnerability as Emily ardently recounts that ‘…I am loved by You God, all You want is my heart, my fascination, my devotion, all you want is my heart…’. While Emily recognises that all the performance in the world isn’t going to get us closer to our Father and the love He’s poured out for all of mankind, we are encouraged by the ever true fact that without God there would be no meaning on this earth, as Emily relays in the bridge as she asks ‘…where would I be without You God…’. God longs for us to be in communion with Him, but He doesn’t want our work. He doesn’t want our striving, our performance, He doesn’t want our ‘good deeds’ and us doing the work for Him, if it means that ‘all of that’ is placed above us being in relationship with Him. If that is the prime objective in life, and not seeking after Jesus and His kingdom, then sure we are ‘doing the right things’ if you want to call it that, but it isn’t necessary at the end of the day. God just wants us. With no added anything. Without the expectations that we will or have to do x, y and z after we become a Christian. Because if that’s the case, then it isn’t the gospel. The gospel is plain and simple- Jesus loves us, we are accepted, so we can come to Him with all of our baggage and accept the gift of eternal salvation, and believe in Him, His goodness and providence. That’s it. Hard for us to swallow, for those of us who may say ‘oh but I thought God wants us to change the world by going to Africa and doing mission work over there!’, but true nonetheless.
“…We have to let go of OUR expectations and get our eyes set on aligning our dreams with God’s heart. We surrender the need to see our lives manifest the exact way and at the exact time that we want. We let the Creator and Healer hold our hopes, our dreams, AND our hearts. Our hearts are the most prized possession by God. Yes, we are saved in order to the work of the kingdom and it’s very important. But God didn’t send His son to acquire servants. He sent His son to make a way for relationship. Before our flashy worship services and catchy sermons, He asks us to come close. Before caring for the orphans and sharing the gospel, He hopes for our attention. Before our impassioned theological debates, before loving your neighbor, before missions trips…How else can I say this? GOD DOESN’T WANT YOUR WORK AS MUCH AS YOUR HEART. He just doesn’t. I feel like I need to scream this from the top of my lungs because it’s something that took me too long to realize. I spent years “working for” God and not time with God. I feel like I totally missed it and I don’t want to waste any more time doing work that doesn’t flow from a place of devoted relationship. No matter how “holy” your work may be (whatever that means, honestly), there is no higher calling than sitting before the Lord giving him our undivided attention and love…” While life on earth is not perfect, we are perfect in Jesus’ eyes. And by perfect, this means that we do not have to do anything in order for God to love us more or less. And as Emily Irene Fertig has demonstrated in “Devotion” as well as “Whole” before it, and her story in how she came to be a solo artist, we know that God has our best interest in His heart when He is moving things so that His plans can come to fruition in our lives. “Devotion” is one of my favourite songs of 2017, and Emily should be proud that such a concept of affirming the fact that we don’t have to do more and try harder for us to be accepted, is present in this song, given that many people on this earth feel shame and guilt at being useless, not talented, and unworthy. With this song being uplifting and healing to probably all who listen, I can’t wait to hear more of Emily’s solo material soon. For the time being, let’s listen to “Devotion” (and “Whole” for that matter!) until we fully can grasp the concept that Jesus wants our devotion, and nothing else!
3 songs to listen to: Not an album or an EP, yet this is one of my favourite songs of 2017, so you can listen to the track 3 times or maybe more, or until we fully understand the notion that Jesus just wants our hearts and our devotion!
RIYL: All Sons And Daughters, Leeland, Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Kari Jobe