I haven’t written about music very much on this blog.

But I always intended to and that is very much a part of the (terribly unofficial and haphazard) plan I have going forward, lol.

There are a lot of songs that I frequently play on repeat, but only a very few albums ever make it to that level of familiar status in my listening rotation. It takes more than just some songs that I like to make an album worthy of repeat listening, and it takes even more than that if I’m going to play it on repeat almost constantly for an entire month. It takes lyrics that speak to the depths of my soul. Lyrics that, for lack of a better phrase, haunt me (in a good way). Lyrics that are honest, and beautiful, lyrics that don’t sugarcoat or try to ignore reality, but that also lift my thoughts out of the darkness and to the truth.

It’s been awhile since I heard an album that met that extensive list of criteria (several years in fact!), but this summer another one came along.

I knew I was going to love Chris Renzema’s new album (because I firmly believe that he simply cannot write a bad song:) and because I was already loving the 3 singles that he released in anticipation of the full album, but when Manna Pt. 1 released on August 25th, I didn’t even have words for how such a small collection of songs could speak to my heart so deeply.

Now, the point of this post is not to rant about the demise of good Christian music, but I do have to just mention that this album deserves to have every single song played on K-Love, and yet I know that not even one of them will be.

Christian music does not always have to consist solely of praise and worship songs that can be sung in a church setting. Christian music can (and should) consist of songs that cover the whole range of the human experience, the good days and the bad days, the faith and the doubt. But too often, popular Christian music leaves a lot of Christians wondering what is wrong with them because they don’t always feel like singing about how great God is. Let’s be honest, there are days when we don’t feel like praising God, there are days when (gasp!) we may even doubt that He loves us.

And guess what? Those feelings and those doubts do not make us any less of a Christian!

Have you ever read the Psalms?

Or the story when Peter doubted and began to sink even though he was actually walking on water?

Did you know that Moses literally told God that He’d got the wrong guy? Or that Charles Spurgeon suffered from severe depression?

How about the fact that one of the world’s greatest apologists, C.S. Lewis, was in his own words dragged to God “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape”?

And yet we revere these people as heroes of the faith.

Shouldn’t that make us take a step back and realize that as Christians we are not expected to always have it all together? Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Being a Christian means that you realize that you are not perfect and that you need a Savior.

I’ve heard Christ is a crutch
That messed up people use
To make it through life
When nothing else will do
Well maybe I’m broken
But I’m not ashamed to say
That I need someone to come save me

Chris Renzema, lyrics from “Not Giving Up On You”

All that being said, I am always encouraged when Christian artists don’t try to fit into the neat little box that is today’s CCM. And in my opinion, the more artists that break out of that mold, the better!

So naturally, that is why Chris Renzema’s music stood out to me so strongly from the first time I listened to it about a year and half ago (I know, I’m a little late to the party:). He never shies away from writing about real emotions, real struggles, and real doubts. His lyrics dive headfirst into the mess that is the human condition, acknowledging the things that we all feel but are often too afraid (or just simply can’t find the words) to express. And at the same time, he always brings it back to the fact that God has infinite compassion and grace for us in our fallen, human state.

And of course Manna Pt. 1 is no different.

I’ve always been a little cynical
They say I’ve got a skeptical nature
Doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful
Just means that I’m a cautious believer
And it’s the craziest thing, after all I’ve seen
Well I still want to believe
Yeah that Holy Ghost keeps haunting me
That Holy Ghost keeps haunting me

Chris Renzema, lyrics from “Holy Ghost”

From the opening lyrics of “Not Giving Up On You” to the closing lines of “Manna (After All These Years),” and every single song in between, the entire album is a masterpiece of relatability and truth. It addresses doubt, cynicism, depression, and fear, and counters all of those struggles with the truth that God has been the same on our good days and on our bad ones.

I keep trying to move forward, and not get stuck in my head
If there’s a foolproof solution, I haven’t found it yet
‘Cause, God, I know a day’s coming when You’ll make all things new
But ’til then I’ll just try to be honest with You

Chris Renzema, lyrics from “God and Prozac”

While I know this album won’t get the radio airplay that it deserves, I do pray that those who need these songs will find them, because we are living in a world where too often we feel like we are the only ones who struggle. Our modern culture has become synonymous with putting on a facade of perfection, when in truth not one of us is perfect. And as Christians, we of all people need to be careful of casting a judgmental eye on those who are weak. Christ came for the broken, Christ came for the sinners, and every single one of us is a broken sinner!

Within Christianity, there is a tendency to look down on those whom we consider to have “less” faith than we do. But who are we judge to how much faith someone has? In the words of Charles Spurgeon, we should “allow no ungenerous suspicions of the afflicted, the poor, and the despondent. Do not hastily say they ought to be more brave, and exhibit a greater faith. Ask not, ‘Why are they so nervous and so absurdly fearful?’ No… I beseech you, remember that you understand not your fellow man.”

Stepping out onto the water
Not sure if you’ll sink or stand
Maybe fear’s pretty normal
When you’ve only ever walked on land

Cus to leap into the unknown
Is to walk by faith not sight
We all get scared of what we don’t know
And maybe that’s alright

Chris Renzema, lyrics from “Faith!?”

Life is a journey and faith is a journey.

We will never have “arrived” until we are finally face-to-face with our Savior. Until then, let us give each other (and ourselves) grace in the process. Let us remember that our God does have compassion on His children, and He wants us to rest in the knowledge that we don’t have to have it all together, because He does.

Feels like 40 years since I saw You split the sea
And even longer still since You split this heart in me
And I don’t know why some days I just get so afraid
That meeting You was just a dream
So when I’m falling asleep
Would You come wake some faith in me

Chris Renzema, lyrics from “Manna (After All These Years)”

You can listen to the full album here.

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