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Story Behind the Song: Faithful’s “A Place For You”

I grew up in a Pentecostal tradition that loved to call everything a spirit. If you showed up to church flustered because your kids wouldn’t get out of bed and your car wouldn’t start and you forgot to brush your teeth, they’d cast out the spirit of chaos. If someone had an allergy attack, they’d cast out demons before considering peanuts. If you were a woman with curves, they’d cast out the Jezebel spirit just to be safe.

I love my charismatic roots, complicated as they are.

They still sprout up from time to time with rich memories or funny stories, like when Sarah Macintosh, Jess Ray, and I were asked to write a song for the Faithful Project based on Psalm 68:4-8. We were drawn to this part: “Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”

When Sarah read it aloud, I was transported back to high school when a youth pastor— you guessed it— cast a spirit out of me. He called it the “orphan spirit” and commanded it to come out in Jesus’ name. I closed my eyes, opened my hands, and repeated the pastor’s words: “I am not abandoned or rejected. I am a child of God.”

Now, listen. I wouldn’t recommend this tactic. I don’t endorse the existence of a literal orphan spirit (or spirit of chaos or any other spirit that has been cast out of me). I also know the Psalmist was not thinking of spirits, but actual orphans and widows. I’ll get to that in a minute. But while I can’t attest to the happenings of spiritual realms, I do know what happens in my therapist’s office.

There’s this thing therapists use called “Internal Family Systems” (IFS) and the basic idea is that each of us contains a complex system of parts that help us function. Maybe you’ve said something like, “Part of me wants to take the job but another part of me doesn’t.” IFS basically names those parts (Judge, Inner Child, Manager, etc.) in order to help you identify what you need to healthily move forward.

I have an orphan part. Maybe you do, too? It’s the part of me that never feels like I belong. It’s the part of me that is convinced nobody else will take care of me so I need to vigilantly look out for myself. That I am not safe. That I’m one step away from being abandoned. That all I have at the end of the day is me.

Abiding in God slowly heals the part of me that is convinced I am on the outside; slowly thaws the part of me that has iced over in hyper-vigilance. Savannah Locke

In Biblical interpretation studies, there is something called “The Two Horizons” which speaks to the two-fold nature of interpreting a text. One horizon is the text in its unique context; the other horizon is the reader’s own context. The Two Horizons speaks to how readers bring their own contribution to interpreting a text.

When I read Psalm 68, one horizon I bring is the orphan part of me which feels abandoned by God. I am struck by the tenderness of God as Father who welcomes me into a holy family with lavish love: “Father of orphans…is God in his holy habitation.” God’s presence is home. Abiding in God slowly heals the part of me that is convinced I am on the outside; slowly thaws the part of me that has iced over in hyper-vigilance.

And the horizon of Psalm 68 challenges me to stretch beyond myself. God cares for the orphan part of me, sure, but God also cares for actual orphans. Actual widows. People who are unhoused (vs 6). People who are in prison (vs 6). The nature of God is to protect the vulnerable and free the oppressed. God stands with the powerless. If orphans, widows, the unhoused, and those in prison matter to God, this ought to shape my community and me. James 1:27 puts it this way: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” This is God in his holy habitation, and this is how God’s church operates with sincerity in the world—by giving orphans families and supporting widows and housing the unhoused and loving those in prison.

How do we, as individuals and communities, practice this type of religion?

It seems to me, that is where the beautiful act of discernment begins. Who are the orphans in your vicinity? The widows? The unhoused? Those in prison? How might God be leading you and your community to be evidence of the Good News towards them?

And maybe, in the same breath, you need to hear the Good News for your own heart? That you belong to God. That you are not rejected. That God is your provider. That there is enough. That there is a place for you filled to the brim with the loving presence of God.

Sarah, Jess, and I wrote a song called “A Place For You” for anyone who has been orphaned or widowed— literally or not. I hope it meets the horizon of your life and encourages you to bask in the vast warmth of God’s holy presence.

1 Comment

Unknown member
Oct 09, 2023

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