Hope Renewed: “Hope is Waking (Peter’s Song)” Song Story

I have always been a storyteller, and although most of my stories have been contained in fictional novels, there has been an element of storytelling in my songs as well. From depicting the aching loneliness in “Jesus is Your Friend” to the pain of separation depicted in “Waiting here,” my songs have walked the listener through real-life circumstances in relation to a person’s faith journey. Most often, I am telling my story or what I have observed in the world around me. But sometimes, someone else’s story touches my heart, and I have to find a way to share it with the world.

This is true of my song “Hope is Waking (Peter’s Song).” As we were working on mastering the album, someone asked me if I had written any songs specifically for The Dawn, and I answered immediately that yes, I did. I think I had always wanted to tell Peter’s story through song, but the lyrics had never come together until I spent intentional time in the Scriptures. I studied the connection between Jesus and His disciples in the Gospels; I sought to immerse myself in their words and actions, particularly focusing on Peter and his perspective. I had always identified with Peter. He has always seemed “real” to me— quick to act and speak (sometimes seemingly without thinking it through), loyal to a fault, and a disappointing display of denial (wow, that’s some alliteration there).

I was on vacation at my parents’ house in early September, 2017 when some mild boredom overtook me. I’m not very good at vacationing; I always need to be doing something— reading a book, listening to or making music, writing, getting things done around the house. So that day when my tablet was dead, my phone had very little reception, and my mom’s daycare kids were sleeping (so I couldn’t play the piano), I was bored. I have never liked the messy process of writing a song, but I figured I had nothing to lose that afternoon, so I gathered up my composition book and Bible and settled in the basement family room to compose my masterpiece.

The storyline of the song was easy to piece together, but crafting the lyrics was definitely a challenge. How do you condense someone’s lifelong faith journey into just a few verses and a chorus that encapsulates it all? To make matters even more challenging was the fact that someone had left the baby monitor turned on, and it wasn’t long before I heard a fussing baby from the room upstairs. But I pressed onward, and nearly two hours later, I had a satisfactory lyric. At that point, I didn’t have a melody, but I was happy with my progress. I went upstairs to investigate what had the baby so upset, and I ended up cuddling the little one until his mother came to pick him up.

I finished the song almost a month later, once I had regained enough eyesight to see my lyric sheet again! Even though I had written the song, it didn’t mean I could recall the lyrics without a boost to my memory. As the song came together, I realized two things; first, this song would be hard to sing and second, it wasn’t going to be brief. My first rough recording of the song stretched past seven minutes in length, and I struggled to find the right range for my vocals. One key was too low, but when I transposed even a step higher, it was too high. Finally, I settled on the original key I had used while composing the song.

Of all of the songs on the album, “Hope is Waking (Peter’s Song)” proved to be the most challenging to record in the studio. I literally played and sang everything on the track: lead vocals, back-up vocals, synthesized orchestration, acoustic bass (through the synthesizer), and basic percussion. Eventually, Alex came in and re-worked the percussion (which was a good thing because my version was pretty much a train wreck). But I essentially saw the song through from start to finish. It was rewarding and draining all at the same time.

I thought about Peter as we crafted the arrangement. I have always wanted to meet this faithful follower of Jesus face-to-face; maybe I will some day in eternity. I wondered if my experience in recording this song was anything like Peter’s life. I imagine him striving in service to Christ— serving whole-heartedly, loving hard, and giving his all to the Master. He had to be exhausted but yet experiencing fulfillment like nothing I could ever comprehend. Yes, he often fumbled— taking His eyes off Jesus while walking on the water and denying His Lord that terrible Good Friday— and those moments had to be excruciatingly traumatic for Peter and draining too. Oh, the highs and lows that Peter experienced as He walked with Jesus!

Peter’s story is more than just a story. I think in some ways we can all relate to his struggle. I can’t even comprehend what it must have been like to hear that rooster crow that Good Friday morning; dawn was breaking, but Peter’s heart had to be breaking too— shattering into a million pieces as he recognized his denial as Jesus had predicted. Oh, the despair that must have torn at his heart when he witnessed the brutal crucifixion of his teacher and friend. I’m thinking of the fear that must have been a living, breathing thing among the disciples as they huddled together in that house, thinking that the soldiers would come and drag them all away too. I’m sure they were all fatigued, sleeping little and barely functioning in their grief.

Then on Sunday morning, three days later, Mary comes running with news that is simply unreal! I wonder if Peter thought he was dreaming when he heard Mary’s tale. What do you mean the tomb is empty? It doesn’t make any sense. I love how Mark 16:7 specifically mentions Peter when the angel instructs the women at the tomb to tell the disciples of Jesus’ resurrection: “Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter…” {emphasis mine}. I almost want to jump up and dance for joy when Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself. What a gift that the angel specifically mentions Peter as he sends the women out with the joyous news! Peter, who denied Jesus and experienced immense grief and regret was not forgotten! He was forgiven and remembered by name!

What a Savior! What love and redemption! What faith and hope must have sprung anew in Peter’s heart! That’s why I called my song “Hope is Waking.” Throughout the course of Peter’s story, the dawn seemed to play a role in his journey. Jesus called him to be a fisher of men one early morning when the nets were empty; but then Jesus came and the nets overflowed. It was also early morning when Peter came walking toward Jesus on the lake. His crushing denial also came at dawn as the rooster crowed. But it was the dawning of that first Sabbath, Easter morning that paints the most beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness. Peter’s hope was renewed that day in a breathtaking, awe-inspiring display— arguably the best sunrise this world has ever seen!

“Dawn is breaking; hope is waking. The Light of the World with His glory unfurled has come to save. The sun is rising; I’m realizing Messiah is here! I have no cause for fear for He gave… so I might believe.”

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