I wrote this with another one of my favorite songwriters, my good friend Andy Osenga. I’m a big fan of his and I hope you’ll check out his work (“Swing Wide The Glimmering Gates” is one of my favorite tracks, check it out here).
This is a song idea that began with a visit to my grade school. Here’s what I wrote about it in the extended booklet of the Special Edition:
I grew up in the small town of Lynd, Minnesota, population three hundred when I was finding my way in the world there. There were few strangers and even fewer secrets in our little community, so much so that as a kid I could walk uptown to Corky’s – our lone convenience store – where Corky himself, with his coke bottle glasses, would sell me the cigarettes my grandpa sent me to buy. Though I never abused that particular trust, I guess the times have changed anyway so that it’s hard to imagine a thing like that happening today.
I loved growing up in a small town.
It seems even smaller to me now when I return as an adult. The trees I climbed, the length of the road I walked to school, the fears I faced as a child – everything is smaller.
My school was perched atop a steep hill, the playground at the bottom of it. Every recess hour this hill became an occasion for all kinds of scrapes, bruises, and abuses as we’d try to run down it without falling, only to have momentum and gravity overtake us in the end and deliver us at the bottom in a heap of dirt, limbs, and tears. In the winter we’d throw each other down it in that gladiatorial game called “King Of The Hill”. In the autumn and spring we’d dare each other to ride our bikes down it, usually with dramatic results. I still have scars on my right knee, hip, and elbow.
The hill loomed large, like a mountain, in my youth. It tried us, broke our will, mocked our courage, and made men of us. Even if you were a girl.
The imposing mountain of my youth looks little more than a quaint hill to me all these years later. But it reminds me that I’m a survivor. It assures me that not all mountains – especially the metaphorical mountains of hardship, loss, or heartbreak – will always crush our spirit. We will outgrow and overcome them and they will not bully us forever.
It gives me strength to measure this hill now – to look back, like King David remembering past victories, and be reminded of God’s faithfulness. I have faced even more imposing mountains since that have threatened but failed to overwhelm me. By God’s grace I’m still here. I’m encouraged to believe that God’s grace will carry me through the mountains I face today.
The Other Side
(Jason Gray / Andy Osenga)
I stood on the edge of 8 years old
On a mountain top in Minnesota
Behind my old grade school
We’d steady our nerve and take a breath
Throwing ourselves to certain death
But the kings of the hill must fight to keep their rule
I went back there a couple years ago
That mountain was twenty feet tall
Skip to the scene where I was sixteen
Taking my turn on the tilt-a-whirl
Holding the hand of a brown eyed girl
I thought would be the one
When the ride got rough we were torn apart
The spinning stopped like a broken heart
I blinked and she was gone
I felt shipwrecked at the edge of the world
But love came and found me again
On the other side it’s easier to see the way
His hand provides just in time to save the day
And I realize the mountains I was scared to climb
Aren’t as big as I thought they were
When I’m on the other side
Skip to the scene where I’m on my knees
Holding on ‘til the morning light
Trying to trust when the money’s tight
In a hope I can’t explain
Crossword puzzles in the waiting room
Praying for an answer soon
To fill in all the blanks
But I’ve been here many times before
And love’s always carried me through
How many times am I destined to prove
I can’t do this all on my own
But there is freedom in failing and finding his mercy
And standing in front of his throne
I’m not as big as I thought I was
So I won’t be afraid
No matter what the trouble is I see today
The maker of the mountains, He will make a way
To lead me through the darkness to the other side…
Every chapter that we’ve been through
Has taught me to rely on you
Jesus teach me that again