I could not hold this brother in higher esteem. And I know that of which he speaks: Family pain can wound us deeply, to our core. The truth is, our families of origin drastically shape what we believe about ourselves. In his latest book, I Am Restored, my friend Lecrae courageously tells the story of his own broken family, and how, even at the height of his success, he could not outrun the chaos of his past. Apart from being a cruciform Gospel voice and an incredible artist, he is doing the difficult, holy work of reckoning with the past in order to truly be whole. Wholeness is elusive. In a world filled with brokenness, it evades our desperate grasp. Even still, we must bravely reach for it. It is a deeply humbling privilege to welcome you to learn from Lecrae’s journey and to never stop reaching…
I spent summers with my uncle, getting tough, running the streets, and searching for significance. I enjoyed my time there, even though it was filled with chaos.
I now know that’s all they knew.
I saw shootings, drug arrests, and other things a kid shouldn’t be exposed to at that age.
But I’ll never forget when my uncle told us to “shoot first.”
I looked around like I was in a dream. My friends’ eyes were glued to him, drinking in his instructions and processing how they would act on them.
What is wrong with y’all? I thought to myself as I half listened to advice that I just knew would get one of us killed.
This was my moment of clarity. Forget this “tough guy” act. I don’t have to live like this.
At that moment, before my conversion to Christ, before I had the privilege of healthy community, I knew I had options.
Earlier that year my auntie had sent me a postcard from Japan. I stared at the scenery for the longest time. It helped me to see that the world is bigger than this neighborhood pettiness. I didn’t want to be a street dude, and I wasn’t built for it.
I had to fill the gaps in with something.
I had to find some outlet to prove myself to others, something that would help me make sense of my existence.
I couldn’t identify with these tough men in my family, but hip-hop was a place of affirmation and acceptance for me. Someone was recognizing me for the gift that I was.
When I found hip-hop, I felt like it was all I needed to fill in any of my life gaps. I didn’t want to excavate the problems of my past to get healed.
I didn’t want to enter into the chaos because I was convinced it would consume me.
Even after my conversion, I still clung to this part of my identity. It looked a little different at that point because people weren’t just praising my skill. They praised how my skill showcased my devotion to Jesus.
The crowds surrounded me, just enough to hide the chaos. I was addicted to alcohol and popping pills to numb myself from the pain of addressing my past. I came perilously close to sabotaging the beautiful family God gave me.
The pressure to prove my manhood shifted into a pressure to prove that my devotion to God was legitimate. The bloggers, the theologians, the fans were watching like hawks to see if I would slip up. And the culture considered me a standard-bearer for this different wave of music. They were tempting me with what they passed at parties and private events.
In the middle of navigating this broken reality, I was forced to ask, Where is the script to show me what it means to be a man? Who will show me what it means to be a father? If my own father failed, how can I succeed? If my own dad was a screw-up, I guess I’m destined to be that as well, right? Where’s my pathway to fulfill this role?
I remember reading the work of a professor who specializes in the divinity of Jesus. He remarked that in the Torah there are detailed scripts of what the temple priests were supposed to do. With painful attention to detail, each of the priests had to follow the temple rules. Those who ignored or broke the rules received strict, even fatal, consequences. Their role as priest was emphasized rather than the person. They were seen through the standard of their position in the nation.
Most of us can’t name many priests from the Old Testament, but almost all of us can name at least a few of the kings.
But ironically, there are no specific rules in Scripture for being a king. Sure, there are Proverbs that they could cling to and general principles that would be wise for kings. But often they would succumb to the temptations of lust, conquest, and power-based evils. There was no script for how to rule, no script for how to lead, no script for royalty.
This gave me hope because, as a man, I don’t necessarily have a script for how to exist in my world. I couldn’t follow the script that came from the men around me or from my father.
But over time I have become convinced that God had a script for me to follow.
His script is simply to love Him completely, love my neighbors faithfully, and navigate life in light of these two commands.
My responsibility is to love my wife and kids well and remain faithful to them.
That’s what it means to be a father even when I don’t have a father.
For years I was convinced there was a “man script” for every contour of my behavior, and God had to show me there are all types of men in His kingdom, living different but faithful lives.
There is no complicated script. My liberty is in simplicity. Love God and love others well. That’s it.
What holds us back from addressing our families of origin?
I’m convinced that a large part of what holds us back is our fear.
Fear makes us shrink back in a false version of ourselves.
Fear keeps us from engaging in necessary conversations and confronting our unhealthy habits.
Fear binds us to What will others think if I admit this?
Fear makes us ashamed of who God created us to be.
I sat across from my father recently. It was the first conversation we’d had in decades. I looked into his eyes, examined what was in his soul, and felt his pain. I did look like my father, but I was no longer trapped as he was.
The man who wasn’t present for most of my childhood was imprisoned by his own fears, bound by his own mistakes. He was plagued with addictions he couldn’t beat, expectations he couldn’t fulfill.
In that moment, I felt overwhelming sorrow for the hatred I had directed at him for so many years.
I am still working through the pain, still battling with the wounds I felt, but at least I now have a perspective from which to approach them.
For the past 15 years, Lecrae has left us in awe with his groundbreaking music career. His incredible journey includes two Grammys, a history-making #1 album, and a New York Times bestselling book. In between these remarkable accomplishments, he is the President and co-founder of the successful independent record label Reach Records.
In his latest book, , he courageously delivers an untold story of chaos and restoration. Filled with vulnerable honesty and transformational yet simple steps you can apply today, Lecrae shares the personal practices he uses in his daily life for mental, emotional, and spiritual health. With powerful prose, he gives an unflinching look at the personal and public spaces that sadly hurt us so often–culture, politics, family, church, personal failure–and reminds us that learning to let go and forgive is the birthplace for the life of creativity and freedom God has for us.
is an inspiring charge to embrace the lasting healing and restoration available now, and that we all desperately long for, because no matter what you’ve experienced, God is near, He hears, and He’s not done with you yet.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]