Melissa Greene’s new CD, Next Step, opens with a make you want to dance title track. With its speaker-thumping chorus and powerhouse vocals, indeed Greene isn’t shying away from an opportunity to show off the many weapons in her musical arsenal. “I’m so excited for people to really get to hear the real me,” enthuses Greene.
The book of Job tells us, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away,” and Greene was recently struck with a newfound comprehension of what Job must have gone through after he lost many of the blessings God had bestowed upon him. And this realization took place right around the time Greene was planning the Next Step project. This was a Lord gives/Lord takes period for Greene because, on the one hand, she was blessed with a promising new record contract; yet right around that same time, “my brother-in-law, who was 32 at the time, was diagnosed with stage-four cancer,” she adds. “I think every one of the songs I ended up choosing, and then later ended up writing, were all out of going through this struggle.” Sadly, Greene’s brother-in-law succumbed to cancer in September, 2007.
Yet on a more positive note, one of the clear messages Greene presents with this sincere new collection of songs is that God will help us take the next step — whatever that step may be — even when we feel too paralyzed with pain to move. Greene speaks to this miraculously encouraging characteristic of God through the song “Too Far”, which she helped write just before her brother-in-law passed away. “It was just the idea that God has brought me too far to let anything stop me now, no matter what that “anything” would be, and how little did I know that the “anything” would be facing the death of a loved one.” This song, filled with spiritual determination, also reveals an entirely different musical color for the singer/songwriter, primarily because it’s driven by a gritty, electric guitar groove. Its lyric reminds us to focus on what God whispers to our hearts, rather than let ourselves get overwhelmed by foreboding circumstances. “So I’ll keep moving forward, And I’ll keep listening to my heart, When it tells me, ‘Don’t you dare give up.’ ’Cause you will overcome,’” says the lyric.
Amazingly, Greene’s upbeat title track was written approximately two weeks after her brother-in-law passed on. With it, Greene creatively combines a deep spiritual truth with a fun musical backing. Its lyric paraphrases something one of her pastors, Mike Glenn, recently said; something that will always stay with her. “The test of discipleship was not about understanding God,” Greene recounts. “It was not about understanding His ways. It was not about understanding why He does what He does. It was about following Him. Jesus didn’t say to his disciples, “Get me.” He simply said, “Follow me.” And that was such a challenge to me – especially in that moment. Because I was sitting there trying to encourage my sister and encourage myself. ‘How are we going to make it past this?’ And I realized in that moment, and in listening to that message, that the pastor was saying, “All you have to do is get back up and take the next step with God. And He is right there to take that next step with you. You don’t have to figure out how you’re going to make it to the end of journey. You just have to take the step.””
Taking that next step, especially after struggling through an unexpected obstacle course filled with deep emotional landmines, ultimately depends upon trust — a mysterious spiritual trust. We must have the faith that, when we put one foot in front of the other, God will gently direct our feet onto solid ground. Greene summarizes such difficult forward motion, which often feels like large leaps of faith, on a ballad titled “To Trust You”
“The chorus simply says: “I can choose to ask why, I can choose to be angry, I can wrestle when life is not what I thought it would be, I can wish that all the pain would simply go away, But at the same time, I can choose to trust You,” Greene quotes.
When many of today’s popular artists sing about “steps,” these words are most likely about little more than dance steps. But when Greene pours her heart out over “steps” via the heartfelt songs filling out Next Step, her God-given phrases encourage movements that count both for now and for eternity. That’s because the Next Step all comes down to faith.