Message Mondays (Tenth Avenue North’s ‘What You Want’)

Tenth Avenue North have been one of my favourite Christian CCM bands of late. In fact, with songs like “Healing Begins”, “By Your Side”, “For Those Who Can’t Speak”, “Strong Enough to Save” and “Worn” to name a few, this quintet from Florida whose debut album on Provident Label Group was in 2008, have quickly become one of the most underrated and heartfelt bands over the last 5 years. Mike Donehey, lead singer, has always had something great to communicate across to us all through video devotionals about the band’s songs over the years. And while their most recent 2014 album Cathedrals only spawned 2 devotional videos (of their singles “No Man is an Island” and “Stars in the Night”), as opposed to the 5 from The Struggle (“Losing”, “Where Life Would Never Die”, “The Struggle”, “You Do All Things Well” and “Worn”), we are nevertheless blessed with what the band have to say for these two tracks. “No Man Is an Island” is a reminder to always live in community with one another, as we remember that we were never meant to live our lives outside of fellowship and relationship with our fellow man- we were meant for community just as God Himself is a community (of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). “Stars in the Night” is also a comfort, as we focus our eyes on Jesus and remind ourselves that in the darkest of nights, it is the stars, or rather, who created the stars, that will lead us on, from despair into hope, from uncertainty into moments of clarity, from indecisiveness to direction and focus. Now as the band ready for their new album Followers releasing October 14th, they have released a new radio single- “What You Want”.

“What You Want” released in April, and was a little different in terms of style compared to TAN songs of the past. Presented with a more dance-pop focus as Mike encourages us all to lay down everything we have as we become more faithful followers of Christ instead of the leaders we so thought we were born to be; it has been an anthem of mine of late. Because let’s face it- and be honest. We were always told by our parents, friends, and family, that being leaders were what we were born to do. From the moment before time, man has always wanted to lead from the front. To have all the ideas, and implement them with style, grace, poise, and to encourage others to join us on our quest. Leading is something championed in this society…but to follow? Whenever we discuss the word ‘follow’, I’m not sure what conjures up in my mind, but in mine, I immediately think of sheep. I know, that isn’t the most endearing thing to initially think about when you think of the word follow, but isn’t that what sheep do all the time? Follow? We always associate follow with us just blindly accepting others ideas, to never think for ourselves and allow people in power to determine the course of action we the ‘plebs’ are taking. In fact, dare I say that in modern society, it’s become so bad that I reckon we all, and I do mean all, want to lead, and never follow? To follow someone else and abandon the plans we have for ourselves can seem to be a life subjected to uncertainty and chaos, but here is where the new song “What You Want” comes in.

From the get go, we hear the vulnerable words ‘…every day I’ve been feelin’ the pressure. I always gotta know the plan. It’s a weight that I’ve tried to shoulder. I thought I could but I can’t…’ We’re all under pressure nowadays. To perform, to have everything planned out, to have all our ducks in a row before we make big decisions that involve us sometimes changing careers, changing where we live, whether we pursue a new relationship or not…you get the picture. And once we have everything planned out, then and only then can we make the choices. Not before. Yet we are reminded through this 3 minute track that at times, more often than not, pressure builds.

We start to feel the expectations from every angle. In our ever-so-controlling nature, wanting to always have everything planned out in our lives, without any leeway for change or alterations in our plan due to life and circumstances; we feel a weight upon us, maybe even a burden. And whether we admit it or not, there’ll come a time where we’ll say ‘I can’t take it anymore’, because in essence, we won’t. With all the pressure from all around us to be whatever our friends and family want us to be, what was meant to be just a mere innocent act of controlling our steps and where we end up will indeed become a tireless venture on our part to please whomever we are in fellowship and relationship with, always chasing the endless pursuit of having a perfect plan when it comes to the events of our lives.

Giving up being the leader and being humble enough to follow cannot be undertaken by anyone easily, myself included. Because whether we accept it or not, we all have a streak inside of us that longs to be the leader. Yet what I’ve realised, is that Jesus Himself was never a leader- He always listened to what God the Father was telling Him. So what does that mean if we’re in the image of God? Sure, we’ll have the leadership ability within us because we’re made in the image of Him, yet we have to let go- of our pride, of our expectations, of our ability to control often things beyond our control, and to say, ‘ok, Lord, I know that I may want certain situations and outcomes to occur. Yet what I’m willing to do is to lay everything down at Your feet, to acknowledge that what You want for my life is far beyond what I could ever dream or imagine for it to be’.

We have to be willing to declare the lyrics of the song, and how as Mike assuredly reminds us all that God is ‘…changing my heart to want what You want, to love how You love and that is enough…’, we have to sit and ponder- is this true for us as well? Do we even know what it is that God wants? Or what He loves? What is on the mind of God the Father? What is burning in His being that He wants to see on earth as it is in heaven? Well- we all know God’s heart for the poor, the orphans and the widows. We know His heart for those lost and deep in sin and shame. And His heart for those with unrealised potential in their lives. But whatever the case, we have to be willing enough to open our own hearts and ask Him to impress upon us what He longs for us to accomplish in this life- because if we’re made in His image, chances are if we’re wrestling with something and feeling that this is something we need to change because we don’t like the status quo; then God is also feeling the same way too.

Sometimes it’s ok not to know the next step. It reminds us that we don’t have to have it all figured out. We don’t have to have plans A all the way to backup plan Z. Sometimes all we need to know is A; and God will work everything else out. Because to have all these backups, often means that we can be too controlling, and sometimes, though unintentional, believe that God maybe doesn’t have it all worked out for us…hence all the backup plans. But we ought to know that there’s only one plan for us to undertake if there’s only one- to want what God wants. That is it- once we are in tune to the longings of the Father’s heart, once we realise that our actions and what we do are out of love for God and not of any obligation or duty; we can breathe easily. And often all we need to do is to just wait on the Lord, and He will show us what He wants. It may not be easy, and most of the time, it isn’t. It could be totally against everything we know and believe at that very moment, but sometimes all we need to do in that moment is to swallow humble pride, and remind ourselves of this- that ‘…there’s no greater plan that I need to know, You only ask me to follow and want what You want…’ Planning is great, but plans will change. Sure we do have to plan for the future, but know that there will be times in our lives where a curveball comes into play, where unexpected events cause us to re-route and maybe even change direction entirely. Maybe, just maybe, the course correction is often what we need, for us to refocus and remind ourselves that God always has our best interests at heart, even when we may not know it at that moment.

Before I finish, let me pose a few questions- are we humble enough in our current moment to ask God to take control of our lives, as we want what He wants and love how He loves? Are we willing to let go of control and planning, knowing full well that we indeed need to plan, but that plans also deviate as well? Are we carrying more burdens than we need to? What are some of the things we need to lay down at God’s feet for us to be free, from expectation and performance? Let us know in the comments. Til next time.

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