New Song: Humanity



Over the past 4-5 years God has been sensitizing my mind and heart to seek out what empathy for others looks like and how that should impact the way I live among others in my community, my country, this world.  I've been challenged in thinking about empathy in light of listening to others' stories, hearing a point of view I know nothing of, and really seeing someone as an image bearer of God.  I have not mastered this. In fact, I really feel I'm still at the tip of the ice-berg in understanding and living out what this looks like.  I suppose we all are.

This past year I've been listening to the Cultivated Podcast and recently listed to the 2-part interview with Christian author and thought-leader, Andy Crouch. In it he discusses a broad range of his experiences from playing piano in an all black gospel church as a young white seminary student, to writing and editing for major magazine Christianity Today, to developing a heart for and writing about issues of justice.

A common thread throughout Crouch's interview and something that's been rolling around in my mind and heart is this idea of dignity, and that all of humanity shares in common curse and common grace (or blessing).  We've all been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Whether someone knows it, believes it, or not, every single human was made by the God of this universe to reflect His glory.  Believing all of that, has deep implications on the way we interact with others.

I've been realizing that there's a difference between listening in order to respond and convince, and listening to learn and understand.  There's a difference between loving someone just as long as they think and believe how we think, and loving someone to reflect God's glory.


"Empathy’s a pretty word to say, but it’s harder to know how to wear
Ignorance grows in the dark, so maybe we’re all just a little bit scared
Maybe we don’t how to love, when the lines are blurred
Maybe we’re in over our heads, but the tide can be overturned"

And so I'm raising my hand. I'm raising my hand admitting my ignorance and all of the things I really don't know about others. 

I do not know what it's like to live as a person of color in this country. 

I have never known the economic struggles of generational poverty. 

I do not know all of the reasons behind your political opinions.

I do not identity with the life-long struggles of those who are same-sex attracted.  

I have never experienced the devastating affects of drug or alcohol abuse and the incredible up-hill climb it is to overcome the fall-out.

I do not know all of your story that has impacted the choices you have made.

I do not fully understand the under-belly grief and pains that have given way to your external symptoms that receive a wagging finger.

But I am also raising my hand and admitting a heart of wanting to know and understand and hear and love.


"No one has to win this conversation, as if words are war
We don’t have to put up defenses, or an armored exterior
Let’s pull up a chair, unfold our arms, it’s time to take a breath
We don’t have to figure it all out today, but we could take one step"

I'm realizing there are experiences and perspectives and stories others have, that I simply do not.  This should cause me to lean in, to learn, to understand, or at the very least, to grant dignity to another human being in hearing what has shaped them.


"Realizin’ more every day that I know, less than I thought I did
I don’t exactly know how to close, this gap between my heart and my head
I’m here to listen, to learn and lean in
So take me back to where your story begins"

As a follower of Jesus, and to my fellow followers out there, leaning in to listen and learn things that I may not align with, doesn't threaten my anchor built on the promises and truth in the Word of God. I'm about as orthodox as they come as far as my belief in what the Bible teaches but I realize my faith in Jesus doesn't threaten loving others, it cements it - it affirms it!  This is about knowing that unless I sit across from another person and simply see their humanity - their dignity - their image of God-ness, then I will never know, see and feel what they've known, seen and felt. 


"We don’t know what we haven’t known,
We can’t see what we haven’t seen,
We can’t feel what we haven’t felt
but could we start with each other’s humanity?
Til we know and we see and we feel
Til we see another person as real
Let’s start with our humanity"


If you're reading this, I'd really love to have some healthy dialogue in the comments if you have any thoughts.  Does this resonate with you? Do you find yourself raising your hand with me?  Are there things you'd add to this idea?  In what ways is harder to lean in, and in what ways is it easy?

Thank you for hanging in with this long post friends! 

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Songwriting Details :
Over the past couple weeks song lyrics have started popping up in my head along these themes.  Once they start to come, it tends to have a momentum and energy all it's own. It's as if I can't help but sit down and get them out of my system.  

I wanted this song to have an honesty to it, but not be too melancholy in melody.  I didn't want it to sound too trite or "nicely packaged", as the content is so open-ended...the content and lyrics are communicating so much of an un-ending process, that I didn't want anything to sound like I had it all figured out. However, I wanted there to be an element of hope - so I chose to swing it a bit and keep the chorus upbeat.  

Frankly, I am such a wordy girl.  I often get constructive feedback on songs that I need to cut some of the lyrics out. But this one just felt like it needed to sound conversational....and that meant it needed to have a lot of words.  It sounds like journal-like, because, well, this is from my own perspective - from my own journey.  At the same time, I tried to translate what I'm learning and seeing into a collective journey.  My aim is to call up others to listen to others simply for the purpose knowing, seeing and feeling.  

Lastly, I went back and forth, but decided to record the first two verses one right after the other, before heading into the chorus. The song felt long otherwise (to sing the chorus three times). I think I like this arrangement, but would be interested in your feedback on that, (if it feels too long before the chorus comes in).
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*As always, my recording is amateur friends, thanks for understanding.
Humanity
Words + Music by Tawnya Smith


Empathy’s a pretty word to say, but it’s harder to know how to wear
Ignorance grows in the dark, so maybe we’re all just a little bit scared
Maybe we don’t how to love, when the lines are blurred
Maybe we’re in over our heads, but the tide can be overturned

No one has to win this conversation, as if words are war
We don’t have to put up defenses, or an armored exterior
Let’s pull up a chair, unfold our arms, it’s time to take a breath
We don’t have to figure it all out today, but we could take one step

We don’t know what we haven’t known,
We can’t see what we haven’t seen,
We can’t feel what we haven’t felt
but could we start with each other’s humanity?
Til we know and we see and we feel
Til we see another person as real
Let’s start with our humanity

Realizin’ more every day that I know, less than I thought I did
I don’t exactly know how to close, this gap between my heart and my head
I’m here to listen, to learn and lean in
So take me back to where your story begins

CHORUS

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