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  • Ryan Smith

Behind The Song: Who Is Like You

Songwriting is a lot like fishing. Sometimes you get out on the water and catch fish left and right and even have to throw some back. Other times you don’t even get a single nibble and just go home wet. And then there are those times where you’re coming up empty-handed but you’re in the boat with someone who has one on the line and you scramble to grab the landing net. Songwriting is kind of like that.


Sometimes I’ll sit down at the piano to write a song but I’m not getting anywhere. My melodies will sound forced and my lyrics sound cliche. Other times, I’ll be able to write a whole song in one sitting and I’ll just want to keep playing it because I’m actually enjoying it. And what an honor it is to be the first one to hear the new song before everyone else! I don’t feel like I write songs. No, I catch them. 

One night my wife was playing and singing at the piano and the melody caught my ear. 

I said, “What song is that?” 

“Oh, just an idea that came to me,” she answered. 

She had one on the line. I knew it. 

I grabbed the landing net.

“I like that melody. Can I write a song to that?”

“Sure!”


So I took the melody and added more melodies and more chords and then started singing spontaneous words. This is my creative process. Start with just stirring up creative ideas and writing spontaneously from the heart, and then you can be critical later as you’re fine-tuning everything. Some people call this writing with the right brain first and then editing with the left brain later. For me, the melody usually comes first and then the lyrics come after that. And the lyrics are the most challenging part, at least for me. In my experience, lyrics can either kill a song or bring it life. But as I was singing spontaneous words to God, “Who is like you?” came out of my mouth in a way that surprised even me. I realized I had read those words several times in Scripture. 


It shows up in places like:


Exodus 15:11

“Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you-- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”


Psalm 89:8

“Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.”


What we put into our hearts will come out, eventually. I’m a firm believer that songwriters who want to write songs for the church should fill their hearts with the inspired truth of the Scriptures. What’s in our hearts will inevitably flow onto the pages of the songs we write. Those of us who write worship songs should be just as careful in crafting our songs as a preacher is in crafting the sermon. Every word is important.


As secondary resources, I also draw from personal conversations, hymnals, sermons, and other books for lyrical inspiration for songs. And I pray for God to give me words. Songs can be a prophetic way that God reveals Himself to people. Usually, I just need one word or one phrase to get me started in the right direction with lyrics. The phrase “Who is like you?” carried my heart heavenward. 


After all, who is like Him? The simple answer is that nobody is like our God. But there’s so much more behind those timeless words that have echoed throughout the generations and throughout the pages of Scripture. There are times that we realize that as we approach God, we are approaching both someone we know personally and intimately, and yet is an infinite mystery. We try to use words to compare God to this or that in an attempt to bring Him down to our level, but really nothing compares to God. Not only is there no one like God, but there is nothing like God. We can reach down deep for metaphorical language to describe God with the imagery of sunsets, or mountains, or stars, or oceans, but all of the comparisons fall flat because, again, there is nothing like God. Creation helps to reveal the Creator, but creation and Creator are certainly not one and the same. The best we can do is to point to the biggest thing we can think of and say, “God, You’re bigger than that.” How can our finite minds understand the infinite nature of God? They can’t. But the wonder should lead us to worship Him. So many people want to figure God out, but He’s not asking us to figure Him out. Instead, He wants our love, our faith, and our worship. Often worship happens where words fall short. We might have an impressive vocabulary, but perhaps the word “Wow” is the most appropriate response to truly encountering God.


In all of our pursuit of knowing God personally, in a way that we can grasp Him, may we never lose the wonder and mystery of the magnitude and majesty of who God is. May our view of Him only get bigger as we draw closer and learn more about Him. And may these timeless words gush forth from our hearts to His, “Who is like You?”

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