The Story Behind the Song: ‘Til I’m Blue
A story of defiance, rebellion and determination.
‘Til I’m Blue tells a story many of us can testify to. It’s that timeless tale; you sense a serious prompting or gift you’ve been neglecting and ask yourself, do I need to start doing something about this?
Then the fear takes over. There’s no way you can do this, there’s too much risk of failure or even hurting people. Your gift is so tiny and weak, and you’re so inadequate both in skill and faith. Besides, what if you’ve completely misheard and this isn’t from God at all?!
So you bury the prompting in excuses and busyness or even valid reasons; like you can’t sacrifice your family time to pursue such a selfish aspiration, or you can’t afford to take time out of work right now because you have important responsibilities.
Maybe you realise you’re kidding yourself, maybe you don’t, as you force yourself free from under that mounting conviction. But God hasn’t finished with you yet.
Someone who knows exactly what that feels like – give or take a giant fish – was Jonah. He lived something like 2,800 years ago (around 786 BC) in a town near Nazareth, Israel. (I’ve done some Googling.)
When God told him it was time to use his gift, he gave really specific instructions about it. In this case, the gift was prophesy, and the instructions were to go and tell the naughty Ninevites that they needed to get their act together – or else. Great, a really clear, easy-to-follow mission from God. Cool beans.
The journey to Ninevah, the scary capital of enemy Assyria, was a one thousand km camel-ride directly North-East. Guess what Jonah does? He sets off on a FIVE thousand km boat-ride West, to what is now Gibraltar, Spain. SO RELATABLE! He is literally fleeing in the opposite direction of God’s plan for him, bless him, and doesn’t mind going 5x the distance to do it.
This defiant act conveys Jonah’s fear of failure, he’s fearful and riddled with doubt; convinced things won’t turn out like God says so there’s just no point doing it. Have you felt like that in your own God-given challenges? I definitely have.
When I first felt like God was telling me to start using my talents and passions for him, I did the sensible thing; I totally ignored him. For the thick end of a year I felt promptings from all kinds of different directions; friends, Bible readings, preaches etc. Knowing full-well they were right for me, I got on my metaphorical boat to Gibraltar anyway.
I wrote ‘Til I’m Blue last year, as a commitment to stop rebelling and start going the right direction. I looked back on the decisions I had made after first noticing God’s calling, and recognised them straight away as steps along a rebellious West-bound journey. The song starts by shamefully acknowledging this: “I chose this road”.
As I try to convince God (and myself) that this plan of his will never work, a very crucial line in the song slips out; speaking of vulnerability, fear and self-doubt: “I can’t do it on my own.” Defiantly, as if plugging my ears with my fingers and heading West, the verse ends: “No, no, no, no, no!”
Now, God never asks us to do anything in our own strength. His message to tribe leader/temple re-builder Zerubbabel was: “Your help will not come from your own strength and power. No, your help will come from my Spirit.” We also know from loooads of places in the Bible that God walks with us and helps us, he doesn’t leave us to sort things out alone. In Hebrews 13:5 God says, “I will never leave you, I will never abandon you.”
But this is the power of fear; when faced with something that requires us to step out in faith and use our skills, we forget or doubt these promises. So many of us ultimately don’t think we are good enough, or compare ourselves to people we think we’ll never measure up to. I definitely still fall into this nasty habit, and have to frequently pray about it and remember that God chose me because of what he sees in me, not because of what I see in me.
The instrumental and scat section here depicts the months I spent ignoring God and marching my own way. Over this time, God kept working on me and sending people my way to challenge my inaction. Eventually, he got through. And I’m extremely grateful he didn’t resort to a giant fish with me!
Reluctant at first, I began to look for opportunities that would take me in the right direction, though it took a while before I started to feel excited and confident about them. The second verse grudgingly and resignedly accepts the call: “There ain’t no stopping when it’s his show”.
Still massively fearful, but finally in agreement and ready to obey, I plead, “Now take it slow, slow, slow, slow, slow.”
The following instrumental and middle eight section is the backing track to a changing heart. As I finally start walking his way and believing that he might use me, I am increasingly encouraged. My doubts and fears, though not yet completely overcome, grow smaller as I deny them victory.
Still doubting that my little gifts are adequate for the job, the bridge conveys my disbelief that I could actually be chosen by God: “Whoever knew that when he says you, he means you?”.
I was his number one choice for the plan he has for me. I was not a Plan B. He didn’t pick someone with a stronger voice, or someone who could also play an instrument, because he looks at more than just technical ability.
Finally, the song declares an acceptance of his calling, and makes a determined conclusion: “I’ll speak the truth ’til I’m blue, ‘cos he took my life and made it new.”
It’s all about him and what he did in me when he healed me and saved my life forever. However scary and difficult and sometimes discouraging this singing journey will be, it is nothing compared to what Jesus did for me on the cross.
I would love for you to join me on my journey to Ninevah. Thanks for your support. 🙂