At certain moments, everyone can feel a distance from a loved one. We can even, without noticing it, distance ourselves from God. Dutch singer Irma Dee went through an impactful season of life that made her ultimately aware of that distance. Upon reading the book ‘The Return Of The Prodigal Son’ by Henri Nouwen she set out on a journey back to God’s embrace. What also followed, was a complete concept album (‘Prodigal Daughter’) that featured the song ‘In Your Arms’. It is a song that not only touches on Irma’s journey, but on all of us.
The story of ‘In Your Arms’ actually started with the kind of phone call you hope to never get. Irma’s sister and brother-in-law were living as missionaries in Kenya, when they were the victims of a robbery. The brother-in-law was killed in front of Irma’s sister, who herself was raped and left in shock, with their children present. Ultimately, the sister managed to call Irma that night. It was a nightmare that wasn’t about to pass, but turned out to be the beginning of a long period of darkness, with an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. “I thought I was secure in my faith, but it was hit hard” says Irma. “It felt like I was drifting away from God. Yes, I believed in Him, but I did not know what it was like to completely surrender to Him. What it was like to surrender myself as a loved child into the arm of the Father.”
On top of that, there was the fear. Irma dealt with an ever present fear of the unknown. “I was afraid to be loved. Over the course of the past years, I had released music on occasion. Each time I did, I had an expectation that there would be a certain, defined success. When those expectation did not come true, I took it personally. At a certain point I even felt like I had failed myself and God. I had been so sure in my thinking that it all had been done under God’s guidance, but I ultimately had to be fair to myself and see that I was going it alone.”
During this season of disappointment and distance, it was a book that got Irma moving again, back to a place where she knew she was accepted by God. It was ‘The Return Of The Prodigal Son’ by Henri Nouwen. The writer and theologian wrote it after being intrigued by Rembrandt’s painting of ‘The Return Of The Prodigal Son’. Reading the book gave Irma the perspective and words for her own journey of faith. It led to the recording of the album ‘Prodigal Daughter’. With British lyricist Phil Thomson, she wrote the song ‘In Your Arms’.
‘In Your Arms’ reflects on the moment in the story of the prodigal son when he returns home and falls into the arms of his Father, Who was waiting for him. In Henri Nouwen’s book, he describes how there is ‘nothing greater than drawing a smile from God and be found by Him’. “That was a direct inspiration for the song” says Irma. “When I read that, I had a fresh realization that the distance between God and me was initiated from my end instead of His. It helped me to truly surrender, to be myself again with God. It helped me come home to Him.”
Irma approached lyricist Phil Thomson in order to put words to her emotions and thoughts. “I had already put some thoughts to paper, along with quotes from ‘The Return Of The Prodigal Son’. That moment in that son’s life, depicted on Rembrandt’s painting, is so telling to me. (…) After a long and exhausting spiritual journey home, the Father was there waiting for me. In His arms I felt safe and in His presence I was allowed to be myself. If you’d ask me what ‘being myself’ means, I would say: be open to Him in everything, including the hard stuff. And giving up control. The feeling I tried to convey with ‘In Your Arms’ reflects the most beautiful moment in my life. There, all my sadness, grief, anger and tears were released. I ultimately had to acknowledge that I could not do this alone. That I desperately needed God.
‘In Your Arms’ contains part of the Lord’s Prayer. “To figuratively fall into the arms of God, was to me like praying a prayer” says Irma. “The Lord’s Prayer is not only well known, it became very personal to me in this process. Nowadays, it hangs on our wall at home. When I was thinking about how to approach the ‘Prodigal Daughter’ project, it caught my eye. That’s when I knew: this has to become part of the song.”
Author: Leon van Steensel for CCLI Netherlands
‘In Your Arms’ in SongSelect from CCLI: https://songselect.ccli.com/Songs/7120410/in-your-arms