Track 6 – Without Running Away

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This may be the most personal song I’ve ever written. I wrote it in much same way I wrote “The Golden Boy & The Prodigal” from my last record, giving heed to Leonard Cohen who once talked about how the Lord told the ancient Hebrews to build altars of unhewn stone–stones untouched by craftsman, rough around the edges. So this is an example in which I just sat down and consciously tried to resist my tendency to “over-craft” a song, trying instead to simply receive it, letting it come on its own terms.

That all sounds kind of mystical and romantic, and I suppose when it works it kind of is. But in truth, many of the songs I’ve tried to write this way aren’t very good.  Every once in a while, a song like this or like “The Golden Boy” comes out of the process and I’m grateful.

I can’t say I necessarily understood every line as it came, but I trusted. Understanding emerged after the fact in a way that feels really cool and humbling. It’s a gift to be surprised by your own work.

This song is a snapshot of a moment, written in the early morning hours after a long, sleepless night after a very bad day. As the dawn broke and the early morning sunlight crept into my little writing space, I wrote the last verse.  All told, I wrote the song in about half an hour.

The bridge was inspired by Frederick Buechner’s hopeful reflections on depression in his sacred lexicon Beyond Words. You can read that here.

Without Running Away
(Jason Gray)

I’ve spent some days looking
For a length of rope
And a place to hang it
From the end of my hope
But where I thought hope had ended
I always find a little bit more

It’s not like I’m trying
To be optimistic
If the truth be told
I’d rather dismiss it
And be free of the burden
Of the living that hoping requires

To bring my heart
To every day
And to run the risk of fearlessly loving
Without running away

Jesus is speaking
But it’s so hard to hear
When disciples with swords
Are cutting off ears
Broken and bleeding
I’m waiting for healing to come

But wounded is a part
I’ve learned to play well
Though the wound may run deeper
Than I know how to tell
Where pain’s an addiction
That keeps me buried alive
But when it’s all that I know
I’m afraid to leave it behind

And bring my heart
To every day
And run the risk of fearlessly loving
Without running away

My heart is not lifted up
My eyes are not lifted up
But calm and quiet is my soul
Like a babe with its mother is my soul

After awhile in the dark
Your eyes will adjust
In the shadows you’ll find
The hand you can trust
And the still small voice
That calls like the rising sun
Come

And bring your heart
To every day
Run the risk of fearlessly loving
Without running away

 

A Way To See In The Dark available on iTunes, and the Rabbit Room Store


22 Comments

  1. Jason

    “But when it’s all that I know
    I’m afraid to leave it behind”

    That’s my life. It’s so hard to leave it behind because at least you know what you’re in for versus not knowing if you’re going to get nailed worse for stepping out and trying again.

    Man…this song…wow. It’s wringing my soul like a sponge right now.

  2. Corey

    I think the raw, brutal honesty is what really draws me to this track. I tend to dig stuff like that. That, plus your natural gift for imagery (I’m not trying to gush, I swear 😉 ) makes this a gem. Favorite: “the still small voice/ That calls like the rising sun/ Come”

  3. Terri Thompson

    This is what I’ve always admired about you and your songs, Jason. You’re not afraid to be real. I agree with Corey about the imagery. I love that too. Thanks for sharing your heart, even when it hurts, once again.

  4. Dan R.

    After reading your commentary, I can see where this song carries some of those rough-hewn qualities (especially in the context of the rest on this cd). I think it gives it a raw feel (raw like a vegetable, not raw like a rope-burn), and everyone knows there are some things that are better raw. This song reminds me of some of my favorite things about the songs of our favorite Andy Gullahorn as well.

    Also, ‘Golden Boy’ is my most listened-to song from Everything Sad is Coming Untrue.

  5. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I should make one clarification about what I said about the approach to writing this song – I did go back to the song to do a little “crafting” after I wrote it. On the BTLOG tour I played this for Ben Shive and Andy Osenga and they identified two places in the song that I suspected could use a little attention. Still, 90 percent of it is what came in that early morning moment.

  6. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Dan – thanks, these are my favorite kinds of songs, too. Someday I’ll probably do a whole record of this kind of thing. I suspect that it wouldn’t connect with everybody, but it’s the kind of thing I’m drawn to personally as a music fan, so I try to include one or two of this kind of song on each of my records.

    Thanks for liking it, too :- )

    The budget called for us to do two stripped down acoustic songs, and this is one of them. But I think Jason Ingram and Rusty did a good job of making it feel like it belonged on the rest of the record. It feels stripped down, but not like a throwaway track. It’s a live drum loop and synth bass along with a synth reedy pad on the bridge. It’s low–fi, which is also the kind of thing I’m personally drawn to the most musically. I love how this turned out.

  7. Emily

    My heart has both been looking for hope and wishing to be granted the gift of not finding any so that it would have a good excuse to give up. It was grateful to find a friend in yours, one to meet it in the same despondent place then gently coax it out of the dark. Thank you.

  8. Laura

    I listened to your album when it was streaming on–was it Hear It First?–the other day. This song grabbed my soul and wouldn’t let it go. You have no idea how apt your album is to where I am right now, today. I downloaded it this morning and have wept through it several times already. Know that whatever else God does through this music, he has used it in my life in really beautiful ways. Thank you for allowing him to use you, for putting your own heart and soul out there for people like me.

  9. Rachel

    I feel deeply honored to be invited to this listening party. As a Christian artist myself (albeit in a different medium), I feel like I’m really celebrating with you, and there’s no guilt as I ignore the dishes and the laundry for a little while :).
    That you share from both your joy (on the last track) and your brokenness is such a gift. I was in a broken place a decade ago, and it was the people who’d traveled down a similar dark road who were able to encourage and minister to me most effectively. God used them to reach me; they were His arms holding me, His lips speaking truth to me. I wouldn’t have trusted anyone who hadn’t lived a similar experience, no matter how well-intentioned.
    Thank you for your honesty, and your vulnerability.

    P.S. I’m also enjoying your comments on the process immensely – craft, inspiration, collaboration, discernment. I’m not a musician (I’m an author and an oral storyteller), but there are parallels in my medium as well.

  10. Jen

    Oh, this song… Not so long ago, after a particularly exhausting and discouraging week, I had the album playing in my car, just to break the silence. Then this song came on and made me weep. I never do that. Now it might be my favorite. (which makes sense.. G

  11. Jen

    Not so long ago, after a particularly exhausting and discouraging week, I had the album playing in my car for the sake of distraction.. Then this song came on and made me cry. I rarely do that. Now it might be my favorite. those first few lines nail me every time.

    I understand how this would be difficult to share such a personal song with the world, but I’m glad you did. Sometimes, it’s comforting to know you’re not alone. I personally wouldn’t object a whole record of this kind of writing. Love some lo-fi. : )

  12. ginger

    for this listener, at this point in time, this song reaches all the right places of my soul. i have said it before, i will say it again: thank you, jason gray, for listening to that voice; for building the altar of rough hewn stones and inviting all of us to worship alongside you.

  13. James Witmer

    I love fluffy, processed-sugar-sweet cake. But I also love hearty wheat bread, delicious in it’s own way and sustaining to the body.

    This song is craft-quality wheat bread.

  14. Jim Crotty

    I’ve been listening to “Remind Me Who I Am” since it was first released, before the album. I thought that song was powerful (and it still is) until I purchased the entire album yesterday and listened to “Without Running Away” this morning. It has struck a chord down deep within me and quiets the echoes of pain from so many past struggles. Thank you Jason, for this powerful song, your talent and sharing both with the world. Indeed you are doing God’s work and I am thankful.

  15. Kristy Vaubel

    Jason I have ALWAYS LOVED YOU & your music, I must say that this song hits me right where I live ….I think everyone can relate to this song, because we all have been hurt in the past & it takes courage to put yourself out there again & again !!
    I Love feeling like I’m just sitting right there listening to you & your guitar…it’s very personal <3 <3 <3

  16. Wife Mother Gardener

    Jason,

    Beautiful.

    This speaks deeply to my calling as a wife and mommy. Loving people is dangerous business. It really is no wonder to me that most people in our world live in relational divorce and isolation.

    Love takes everything – more than I have – and never stops! And “the hope it requires” is hardest to hold on to when wounding comes, as it always does when people are involved.

    Thanks for the reminder and the challenge to face another day tomorrow & hope in Love again.

  17. Jenn C

    I think this song might be my favorite on the whole album, as it’s the one that echos in me after I’ve turned the cd off. I’d take two whole albums of the songs, forget one. And I’d even pre-order. 🙂

  18. Jasmine Yow

    I recently read a blog post on The Sound of Our Breathing, was intrigued, bought your song. Then I randomly bought Without Running Away and stored it away.

    It was weeks before I started listening to it, but I did today, on Easter morning. Boy did it speak volumes to me in my struggles and captured perfectly the tension of living and engaging.

    Loved the Psalm 131 reference, a Psalm which has been ministering to me this week.

    May you continue to walk with God and sing of your journeys and His glory.

  19. Scott Common

    Amazing song writing! Words, Melody,..the whole thing. Would love to get to know the chords ~ before I do a butchered attempt at scribbling my best rendition. Can anyone help? Blessings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Scott Common

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