Word One / 2009 / Ungracious Heart / by Dusti Jensen & Steve Whitby
As I’m sitting down to write about the writing of Ungracious Heart, I’m also introducing you to our album. It feels like a big deal, this first post.
So I must get two things out in the open.
First, I am terrible at, and mostly disinterested in, small talk. And as you’ll see, our album kind of follows suit, jumping straight into a real, raw place … no easing in, no warm and fuzzy welcome. If I let myself, I could worry this first song will knock you in the head so hard you won’t care about the rest of the album. But instead, I choose to trust God prompted us to create this. Second, this song is not at all about what I intended to write about.
Let me explain…
The Scripture that prompts this song is Luke 23:33-34, the first of seven things Christ says as He is nailed to and dying on the cross. It reads: “When they came to the place called ‘The Skull’, they nailed Jesus to the cross there, and the two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father! They do not know what they are doing.”
It seemed exciting to me to write a song that told a story about “them” … those murdering Christ. I knew I could sing a story that painted a picture of how ignorant, wrong and close-minded they were, and one that truly showed the magnitude of grace that Christ couldn’t help but plead for, for “them,” his murderers, as He was dying. But as I sat for days with Scripture and my longing for a story like that, all I kept hearing on repeat in my head was “Forgive ME, Father. I know not what I do.”
So, of course, I shut that down. I literally ignored it for days. I just knew I could come up with something about “them.” I mean, I wasn’t murdering anyone! I prayed regularly, I loved God and sought to do what was right, with the exception of things like the little white lie I quickly recognized and followed up with a simple, “Oops, God, sorry about that,” confession. Obviously, my initial idea had to be the right direction for this song because my own spiritual story would make boring material.
Then one night, I gave in and explored ways I needed forgiveness.
I’d like to claim that I gave in honorably, that I was willingly being obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to write around my own sins and such, but I wasn’t. It was simply timing … it was the very last night before I needed to have lyrical content to share with Steve and I was pretty desperate.
So, I sat down, and ten minutes later I had enough lyrics for multiple songs. I sat and stared at my overabundance of lyrics and realized they were basically a written confession of my sins, and I was stunned. I cried at who I was and knew that this song was about more than a story I could imagine about someone else. It was real and personal, and it was moving in me, exposing my sinfulness in a very clear and soon-to-be-public way. That was life changing. My lyrics didn’t consist of sins that people across the board would easily see, like murder or an affair or stealing. They were the heart sins. The sins so easy to ignore and hide and justify. The ones born out of living for myself. The sins Christ pleads for in my stead because I’m too ignorant and unaware to even see or admit them. The sins that make Him say, “Dusti knows not what she’s doing, God! Please forgive her!”
Since this song writing process forever changed me and the way I approach my heart, my sin, and my need for a Savior, I want to state clearly that every single lyric in Ungracious Heart is true of my heart, my behavior and my depravity. I am so much worse than you know, than I knew, or than this song even shows. Yet, Christ pleaded for me, despite me, on that cross as He bled and died for me. The first and only time I’ve ever sung this song live in front of others, at Tenebrae in 2009, I had to sit on a stool for steadiness. And you’d have to ask my husband, but I’m pretty sure I went home in a foul mood after I’d just confessed to the whole arena things I would rather hide. I felt naked, ashamed, vulnerable, and exposed.
Ten years later, I find the Holy Spirit has gifted me strength and a yearning to bring this song of confession before you in hopes that you might hear the lyrics and know you’re not alone if you think “I do that too.” Or maybe you think “I’m worse than that,” but let me assure you that I am too. Or maybe you think “I’m not even sure what I do that’s sinful,” and I can confess to wearing a blindfold at times too. My prayer for you is that it opens up your eyes to hidden ways you are keeping yourself from God. That it opens your eyes to how much grace you are given that you don’t even know about. That we can grow together in awareness of our depravity and the unconditional depths of God’s love by journeying together and reminding each other that it’s really not okay, but we can seek the One who can make things okay. My prayer is that this snippet of my confession might give you courage to explore the dark corners of your own heart and lead you deeper into God’s acceptance and love for you.
So, let’s skip the small talk and jump right in. As you listen, and as you are led, consider mining your darkest caves and asking God to show you the things you don’t know you are doing that motivated Christ to plead for your forgiveness.
And for courage, here, let me go first.
I point my finger
And I shift the blame
But I would never do that to you
I’d kiss your cheek
With passion some days
Only to get what I want from you
Forgive me Father
I know not what I do
I don’t think I need you
I’ve found my own way
But I would never say that to you
Forgive me Father
I know not what I do
I push you away
I wonder why you’re not here
Welcome you with palm trees
Then join in the haunting cheer
Screaming “Where are you God?”
Oh you are never near
So I spit in your face
For all you do for me oh
I’m still a slave
You were supposed to set me free
There’s no time for you
But there’s time for everything
Oh every time, every time I
Drive in another nail
I watch you bleed, bleed
And wonder why my own life’s unfair
Will I ever change
It’s obvious that I don’t care
Because I am not ashamed
I’m not even saddened by no
I am not ashamed
I’m not even saddened by
The way that I claim to love you
But never realize
The price that you paid, paid
When you gave up your life
For my ungracious heart
I know what I do