BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Sarah Kelly: Ready for Worship
By Hannah Goodwyn
Singer/songwriter Sarah Kelly's personal story of God's saving grace has touched the lives of many Christians and non-Christians alike. Her past was plagued with abuse and emotional pain. Now, she is free from self-hate and longs to do one thing -- lead others in worshipping the Holy One.
Recently, CBNmusic.com sat down with this strong woman of fatih to ask her some questions about her new album and what God is doing in her life these days.
Your new album, Born to Worship, only took you one month to write?
Yes, it was finishing a bunch of songs I had started writing when I was young. That's why I named it Born to Worship. I’ve tried to finish those songs before, but I couldn’t with the time of life that I was in. They just kind of fell out, and I knew it was time for this project.
Why not produce these songs from your past before now?
A lot of artists put the best of their whole life on their first album. Take Me Away was all stuff I wrote the week before we went into the studio... They weren’t the songs I had been leading worship in the churches with and they weren’t the best of the best that I had seen work out there, mainly because I hadn’t finished them.
I was in a time in my life of a lot of self-denial, a lot of harder things. My relationship with God was definitely hindered in a way that I could love Him, but I couldn’t accept His love for me. It was a one-way relationship and you can’t have a relationship with God like that, a healthy one.
It wasn’t until just recently where some of those patterns in my life have been reversed. Glory to God. Finally, through those addictions to self-hate and different paths that led me down and 14 years of battling that, you know. I could finally finish the songs, and they just kind of fell out. It brought me to this place of purity and this new love for worship that I had when I was a child before all of the abuse, before all of the harder things in life that had happened. It completed the picture.
The first album, the song was "Take Me Away". That’s obviously someone crying out to God, "Help, I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know why I’m allowed to live through this. I can’t talk about it, but please hear me. Hear me." One-way. "Hear me."
On the next album, the main song is "Out of Reach". I had made the decision, "I’m done with this. I’m done with being mistreated. I have to move on from this. I have to be vocal about it. I have to muster every bit of strength I have to find the will to live, right now." It almost sounds a little angry at times, but it’s me just getting any amount of strength I have.
Then going to this new album… I mean "Take Me Away" to "Out of Reach" and now to "Brand New Day". You know it just makes that really completed picture of what God’s done in my life. Now He’s restoring the years, like Joel 2 says. I’m in this time of God restoring the years that had been stolen from me. He is no longer letting me be put to shame, like that’s what it said in Joel 2. He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten. I’m right there, right now.
When that communication with God is not so much just me loving Him, but me accepting His love for me, accepting that I was never in His will for me. It was me that kept me there not Him. It wasn’t His will for any of us girls. We are not afterthoughts to Him. All of a sudden, I could go back to that heart of worship because I trusted Him again. It was what was in me to do as a child and it’s what’s in me to do now.
After all that time of holding onto self-hate, what sparked a change?
Well, I think you hit rock bottom eventually and it’s either suicide or change. I tried to commit suicide when I was 13 and I saw what it put my parents through. I don’t think I was really wanting to die at that age. It was a cry for help. But, I saw the aftermath of what even a little suicide attempt did to my family. It’s funny how when I really did want to die… that is what kept me from committing suicide. So even God uses that later on.
There’s a purpose for everything. I would never want to put my parents through that. I had a will to live and there was only two choices, change or suicide… change or suicide. I decided I wanted to live.
It’s been three years of restoration healing and my head is out of the dark clouds. I couldn’t feel God’s love. I wasn’t allowing myself to. I couldn’t see straight. I held onto my love for Him. But, I was not feeling worthy of his love for me. The day I wrote "Out of Reach", on my second album, was the day I decided to change.
When you’re a church leader, some of these decisions, of course are going to affect the people underneath me. And I didn’t want to shake their view of God at all. I know they heard the pain in the songs all these years. But they never put their finger on what it was. For me to finally say, "This is what it is … I’m being being physically abused in my home," I didn’t want to let them down like that. I didn’t want their faith to be shaken. I didn’t want them to question my worship. I didn’t want them to question God. To have to hold your breath and get through that and get to the other side, that was a major change. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Self-hate is an awful, awful master that will lead nowhere and steal everything.
On your new album, Born to Worship, you have a song titled, “Sit With You Awhile.” Tell me about it.
Oh, that’s my favorite. That’s a song I used to use to sing in the hardest moments, when I need to remember who God is and that He loves me. I need to worship through this. I would never sing it at shows because it was too personal. But, it’s the one when at eleven o’clock at night when I’m by myself and I just need to be with Jesus, that’s the one I would sing. That’s the go-to song. When you’re just sitting down and playing for you, that’s the one I go to every time.
If I have a life anthem, I think it’s ‘Sit with Me Awhile.’ It’s the song of a seven year old that is just enamored with Jesus. I wrote it after a Sunday school lesson about Mary and Martha. Martha was busy working. Mary was just so enamored with Jesus, and I would try to guess what she would say to Him. I wrote the first verse and chorus of that. Later on in life, I introduced it as a worship song in my college group and it really just was their favorite. Then, I finally finished it this year and put it on an album.
Oh, it feels so good. It feels so good to be back in a place where I can feel God’s love for me, to write like that again. It’s grace.
Your album talks a lot about how God’s mercies are new everyday, which is especially true for the first song ‘Brand New Day.’
That’s my theme song right now. You know how I mentioned songs on each album that were like the face of the album. "Brand New Day" is the face of this one. That one I didn’t write when I was little. That one I just wrote. And we are in that right now.
Another one that stood out to me was "Behold and Adore." I read somewhere that when you were writing about it you were thinking of Christ’s return?
Yes. It’s supposed to be a dream. It’s a choir piece I wrote when I was small, a child. I think I had a glimpse of what Heaven sounded like. I really do because I was trying to show my mom the song, but I couldn’t sing it right because there are three parts. So I was like, [Sarah singing] “Holy…All Glory…” You know like, “ohhohhohh.” She figured out what I was trying to do. [And she said,] “You tell me what to sing.” Then, we figured out what was going on in my head. We introduced it in my church later on, when I was 20 something. It was the song we’d always sing at the Christmas things and became the Master’s Commission theme song.
But, you know, it never had verses. Those verses are new. So I decided to make it… how do you finish a song like "Behold and Adore"? I mean it’s just basically a round. A round of what I imagine is like different personalities of angels. What different personalities of angels would be singing to Him? You’ve got the softer feminine side singing, “You are my bright morning star.” You’ve got the more warrior angels singing, “Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty.” And then you’ve just got the spirit and the bride that come and “Behold and adore King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Behold and adore.” Just imagine different, I guess, personalities of angels and what that sounds like altogether.
The worship in Heaven is going to be so creative. I don’t think it’s going to be sterile. Like a lot of what we do sometimes is the 4-chords. OK, can we sing this chorus anymore times cause I’m ready to shoot myself? [Sarah laughs] The 20 times through 1 song. But, I think it’s going to be exciting and have different personalities, but come together and make a beautiful sound. So, I decided to make a song about a dream of Heaven. That’s why I completed it.
No wonder we don’t feel like we really belong here, because we don’t. This isn’t where we belong. No wonder my life’s been hard. God didn’t call me to understand what I’m going through. God didn’t ever call me to be perfect. He didn’t call us to be perfect. He didn’t call us to understand everything. He just calls us to worship Him through it, you know. No wonder we feel like we don't belong here. This isn’t where we belong. And then to kind of melt into a dream of “Come now spirit. Come now truth. With all my heart, yes, I welcome you. Enter boldly with no room for fear.” Like you’re entering in, joining an angel so loud and clear.
You’ve said, “Now, because of my life experiences, there is a new depth, joy and a revelation of the meaning of grace.” Could you explain that? Some may not grasp what grace means.
Well, how can you? I know I loved God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and sought to glorify Him with everything that I did. I had one area of secret sin – and that was not liking myself. And I don’t know that there’s one woman in the world that doesn’t deal with this. So it’s not just me. And that’s why 1 out of 4 of us is physically abused at some point in our life. It’s so funny that we think it’s uncommon, but it’s really everywhere around us. It’s just nobody talks about it because who wants to admit that. Who wants to admit that "I’m so weak that I’m OK with this? That I’m OK with being mistreated in my home or this is what I feel I deserve." I mean, that’s an awful place to be. Coming to the end of myself, I came to a place where I was seriously dependent on those mercies that are new every morning.
I had a rustle with God because I was like, “Now, I can’t do worship anymore. I have a past now. I’m stained. Maybe it wasn’t my fault necessarily, but it’s still is what it is. There’s going to be a lot of people who have a lot to say about it. You know what, use her she’s a better business move for you God. Use that woman to be your voice of feminine worship out there, of a soft-hearted worshipper who loves you, the Mary of this generation. Use her because I can’t do that anymore. I have a story now.”
I wrestled with Him for about a year on this. He woke me up one day and just said, “Were any of the main worshippers in my Bible perfect? Was Mary perfect when she came an anointed my feet with oil or the harlot that came in and washed Jesus’ feet, which is still the essence of worship today? No, you’re broken. You’re in a perfect place. Do what I’ve asked you to do and put these worship songs out.”
That for me, the fact that I still get to lead worship, is grace in itself. Everyday, I wake up and I’m like I don’t believe I get to do this still. I shouldn’t get to do this. I’m the worst of the worst. I’ve been where only the worst people that you see on movies have been. The fact that I get to lead worship, I get to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and invite other people with me and keep a pace that hopefully challenges them in my worship, the fact that I get to do that? His mercies are new every, single morning. I depend on that now. I depend on that. That is the only thing I have.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as a producer for LivingTheLife.com and CBN.com. She also writes regularly for these sites.
For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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