I’d have to say, for me at least, that the latter experience applies to ‘The Reason’.
Lacey Sturm’s story revisits darkened avenues.
‘The Reason’ might look like a standard ‘’rock-star’’ reading. It isn’t.
Sturm’s famous vocal-scream and its raw transition from heart to ear, directs attention to the depth of her pain, prayer and subsequent gratitude. What you hear in her music is what you get in this book; it’s the figurative heart, scarred, but bursting with new life.
‘It is brave to trust that the God who gave you life in the first place has a good plan in mind, even when everything around you looks like hell. It is brave to live.[i]
One might rightly say its contents reflect something akin to Cohen’s vision in ‘Anthem’ of how light pierces through the cracks.
Illuminated by an underprivileged and abusive past Sturm pins down connectivity with the broken-hearted, reaching well beyond the realm of safe pulpits and the sanitized pews of the middle class Christian West mindset.
This is theological poetry for the self-styled “damned.”
Much like the autobiographies from Johnny Cash and Brian‘Head’ Welch, Sturm delineates cause, effect and the overarching struggle to simply breathe beyond sin towards forgiveness, through a brokenness unfairly thrust upon them, delivering hope to those of us who can relate.
Like ‘emotional vomit’, lyrics about ‘horrible abuse, if sung honestly, must be screamed…Screaming was my natural response to injustice… When I started writing music with screaming in it, the point was to hit someone back… After God rescued me, however, I found a purpose for my screaming: to speak truth over the lies in people’s hearts. Lies like the ones I believed about myself when I wanted to die….I prayed God would use my voice to scream justice over every lie seeking to destroy the very people he made for great things.[ii]’
Sturm, accompanied by beautiful hand drawn bespoke illustrations, unpacks the darkness in order to reveal the light. It’s clear that her words are carefully chosen, a well-considered pre-emptive attempt to prepare most readers for what is ahead.
‘The Reason’ deals with a series of issues including: bullying, parental abandonment, violence, identity issues, depression, poverty, fatherlessness and abuse.
Something that exists as an overarching theme is Lacey’s search for identity, acceptance and freedom. A big part of this is her wrestling with sexual identity, atheism, mistrust of men, confusion, love, and hate for injustice; a quest that fills these pages with more authenticity than some autobiographies twice as long exhaust themselves trying to achieve.
If anything, Lacey’s vulnerability makes her too vulnerable. Yet, what this all suggests is that Sturm is not out to just sell a book or artificially pad her already well supplied fan base.
‘The Reason’ is absent of hype and pretence. It denies any temptation to rely on these staple ingredients so often used in modern appeals to the masses. It is ‘unassuming in its significance’.
This is evident in one of the most impressive highlights (and there are many), the theological distinction Sturm makes between “awe” and “emotionalism”.
‘There’s a definite sense of awe in the presence of God, and I experienced this most in the worship setting in church. I fell madly in love with experiencing awe. This experience was more than emotion. Something within us resonates when we encounter the sublime in life. C. S. Lewis talks about this feeling of awe in his book The Problem of Pain. In it he describes the word numinous. The numinous is that “thing” we sense or feel that is outside of ourselves.[iii]’
Her discourse shifts away from a false euphoric emotionalism in worship towards ‘awe’, adding that there is a ‘difference between relationship with God and the experience of God.’ Lacey is aware of potential unseen dangers with regards to music, further stating:
‘The power of music, with its effect on the soul, is one of the most tangible ways to touch someone’s heart or spirit. I began to be very selective about the music I let into my soul and spirit because of how powerful I knew music could be. Emotions aren’t wrong, but letting them control your life and sway all your decisions can be deceptive and very destructive. I felt myself slip easily back into depression and condescension whenever I listened to certain music.[iv]’
As easy as it would have been to slip into this trap, by providing advice like this Lacey evades feeding a narcissistic subculture, “Christian” or otherwise. Instead her story and reflections that run concomitant with it, present a well thought out chronological narrative of displacement, warning, encouragement and realignment.
In conclusion, ‘The Reason’ is in-part exactly what a fan would expect; commentary complete with a list of who and what helped that person steer into a musical career, fame and noticeable accomplishments.
However, Sturm’s book is not a chronological drift of what and how to become a rock-star. It is not an all-purpose list, to-be-generally read and followed formula for success.
Lacey points to God as the author of her success with a fierce reminder that God, in Jesus Christ, through His Spirit reaches for us. That He hears us. Especially our deepest gasps, loneliest sighs and anguish filled groans. Although we may not see it, His gracious grasp is firm, authentic and unmistakable.
As Tolstoy and Barth rendered it, so Lacey Sturm profoundly reminds us of it:
No matter how bad it is, we are, still indeed ‘held firmly above the abyss.[v]’
[i] Sturm, L. 2014, The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 62).
[ii] Ibid, pp.77-82
[iii] Ibid, p.134
[iv] Ibid, p. 132
[v] Tolstoy’s A Confession & Karl Barth: ‘It is given an answer from the cross of Christ. The serious and terrible nature of human corruption, the depth of the abyss into which man is about to fall as the author of it, can be measured by the fact that the love of God could react and reply to this event only by His giving, His giving up, of Jesus Christ Himself to overcome and remove it and in that way to redeem man, fulfilling the judgment upon it in such a way that the judge allowed Himself to be judged and caused the man of sin to be put to death in His own person.’
(Church Dogmatics: A Selection With Introduction by Helmut Gollwitzer, Kindle Ed.)
(Disclosure: Unpaid review)
© Rod Lampard, 2015