“Lord, I gave You all my blame / You gave me a new name / Your love keeps pulling me from the shadows.”
As Christians, we often find ourselves frustrated with the sin in our lives, feeling ashamed that darkness can still have such a hold on us.
But God is more powerful than all our battles and He never stops pulling us closer to Him.
That’s the overarching message of No Shame, the newest album from contemporary worship trio Tenth Avenue North.
I’ve been an avid follower of Tenth Avenue North since I first discovered their early album Over and Underneath (2008).
They’ve built on a solid foundation of imaginative sound and deeply personal lyrics over the past ten years, releasing albums regularly: The Light Meets the Dark (2010), The Struggle (2012), Cathedrals (2014), and Followers (2016).
Their latest EP, The Things We’ve Been Afraid to Say (2018), delved into difficult but relatable topics in their personal lives such as idolatry, true love, and sexual assault. The band has never wavered from writing lyrics that cut to the heart of a situation.
Their newest album is no exception.
No Shame is a raw, honest exploration of shame, fear, regret, and many other emotions that Christians can often be afraid to talk about.
The title track is both a confession of sin and a song of praise for God’s eternal grace. In the intro of this song, the band articulates the differences between what they deem as “healthy shame” and “toxic shame.”
Healthy shame brings us closer to God through confession. Toxic shame drags us down, convincing us that our sin is too great, and makes us fear communion with God.
“The weight is off my shoulders,” confesses Mike Donehey, the band’s lead singer.
“I’m so forgiven man it’s hard to explain it / But I’m finally living with no shame.”
A weight lifted is a consistent theme throughout the record. Donehey writes and sings about the burdens of worry and life on earth.
“Heaven Is Now,” a dreamy number with an ethereal sound, reminds us that we, as the people of God, bring the kingdom of God to earth.
“I got eternal life living inside me,” Donehey sings, reflecting on how the presence of Christ in his heart changes everyday life.
But the record’s hopeful narrative takes a painful turn in the song “Someone to Talk To,” a soulful ballad about the struggles of finding honest community in the church.
“Can I say that I’m lonely / Say that I’m scared / If I tell you what I’m feeling / Will I still get to stay here?”
This is a familiar cry for believers: our shame over our sin can often stop us from confessing to our brothers and sisters.
We can be honest with God, but if we’re honest with other Christians, will they still accept us?
The band answers this question in “A Phone Call,” an experimental track in which Donehey speaks to those who’ve confessed to what seem like enormous sins.
It’s a thought-provoking reminder that confession, honesty, and acceptance all have a foundational place in the body of Christ.
The turning point in the album’s story comes with the track “Greater Than All My Regrets,” which is my personal favorite. This track is a return to the band’s original sound: a simple keyboard and string arrangement with powerful and personal lyrics.
“So if I fall and if I fail / I will trust Your mercy / Is greater than all of this,” the song’s chorus says.
“And if I bend and if I break / I’ll trust the hands that hold me / Are greater than all my regrets / You are greater than all my regrets.”
Throughout this number, Donehey recognizes God’s presence in his life, even in the midst of his mistakes. As someone who sees my own mistakes all too clearly, I’ve had this track on repeat ever since I first heard it.
Tenth Avenue North has always had a gift for making theology personal. Donehey’s lyrics spur the listener to prayer, introspection, and praise, telling a story that resonates with believers in many walks of life.
With “No Shame” and “Greater Than All My Regrets” as the baseline of this album, the band continues to explore the ways that God unburdens His children.
“The Future” and “Reaching” urge listeners to experience life as God intended, one moment at a time – without worrying for tomorrow.
Donehey confesses his tendency to miss the “little miracles” right in front of him and prays for grace to live in the present.
Longtime listeners of Tenth Avenue North will agree that this album has a much more contemporary sound than past records.
In tracks like “Paranoia,” a rock anthem touching on the issues of tolerance and xenophobia, the band experiments with heavier beats and edgier sound filters than in the past.
Overall, the record has more of a hip-hop feel as opposed to the more classical sound of Cathedrals or Over and Underneath, but the band still conveys a clear message: joy, freedom, and the lifting of our burdens in Christ.
“Call My Name” and “Space to Speak” articulate our need to separate our old, sinful nature from our new nature in Christ.
“It’s just You and me / A little more room to breathe/ Oh, my Lord/ That’s all I need,” Donehey sings, relishing his communion with God.
“When You call my name / The sweetness of Your voice / There’s nothing quite the same.”
Indeed, when Christ speaks to us, the voices of our sin and our past fade away in light of His power and love.
The album ends, in the tradition of Tenth Avenue North, with a reflective track. In “Always Been You,” Donehey reminds us that God is the true fulfillment of our every desire.
“Everything that I adore / Everything I’m looking for / It’s always / It’s always been You,” Donehey sings.
“Everything I’ve ever loved / Leads me back to You because / It’s always / It’s always been You.”
It’s a fitting end to an album centered on worry and confession. The more we cast our worries on Christ and confess our sins to Him, the more we find in Him everything we need.
On the whole, No Shame is a good listen for both longtime and brand-new fans of Tenth Avenue North.
Spend some time listening to this album and rejoicing in the Truth that as followers of Christ, we have no shame!