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From the introduction of
PRODIGALSONG: A MEMOIR


Once, in a place and time that now seems near enough to touch and yet just beyond my reach, finding myself caught between the dreams of a boy and the desires of a man, I ran away from Home. This is the story of how I lost myself, and found a Friend.

I’m not really sure how I became lost in the first place. And I’m even more confused about how I managed to stumble out of the storm and end up back where I started, on His doorstep, alive and breathing again. But somehow, somewhere along the line, the person I had always assumed myself to be fell away like an ill-fitting costume, and I discovered inside my skin a stranger, bloodied and dazed like some doe-eyed amnesia victim following a near-fatal accident. From that moment on, I have had to re-learn my life—and perhaps even some purpose for it—one awkward day at a time. It’s not easy, accepting something as precious as Grace.

My journey back to faith has been a dangerous one. As with all long journeys, the scenery has at times been less than pretty. And so, although I see that God has been writing this book inside my heart from the very beginning, the thought of now setting it free to be shared with others fills me with fear. Even after all this time, I feel uncomfortable revealing certain truths about myself; a part of me wants to keep my secrets very secret, so that they stand a better chance of destroying me. Most of my life I have too often listened to those voices in my head, the old ones, the ones that have been repeating the same messages for as long as I can remember: You are not worthy. You’re a fraud. No one will love you if they discover who you really are. Even now, listening, I am afraid. Afraid of a truth I would rather pretend never happened and have never dared share. Afraid of a past about which I have prayed my children might never learn. Maybe—I think—if I hide from it long enough, if I shut my eyes tight enough, maybe it will never have been.

Professionals who work in the field of chemical dependency would quickly identify me a classic example of the “egomaniac with an inferiority complex.” So here I am now with some time in recovery, refereeing a daily battle between the still-struggling part of me that constantly craves attention, and another part that desperately dreads drawing any more notice to myself. A certain part of me has always fully expected to be famous. And yet, I’m often terribly lonely and afraid, desperately seeking approval, hopelessly hoping that someone might find something within me worth loving. It’s a vicious cycle, this all-or-nothing, warp-speed or dead-stop, top-of-the-heap or bottom-of-the-barrel kind of living. So these days, I’ve had to learn to reach out for help, and tell a few trusted people the truth about myself, at least as much truth as I’m able to discern. When I do, I find that I’m able to stay marginally sane.

Over time, though, God keeps pushing. He wants me to dig deeper, I think, and look harder, and stop pretending the healing is complete. Perhaps he longs for each of us to pause on the pathways of our past, and listen for the lyrical messages hidden in our history. It’s how we unlock the mystery of our memories—taking a hard, long look at our lives, staring our wounds right in the eye, without blinking, until we find ourselves face to face with Him. We resist, of course, for as long as we’re willing to put up with the lingering pain. But eventually the Truth will just literally beat the living hell out of us, if we’re willing. And we can’t keep our backs turned on Heaven forever.

The Father has remained at my side no matter how frantically I’ve run in the other direction. And He has been whispering all along, while I made as much useless noise and clatter as possible to cover up the sound of His voice. Little by little, I’m beginning to think I understand some small part of what He is saying to me, and it’s something like this: You are not what you think you are. You can stop all of your ranting and raving, because I am not listening to that. You are mine and you have always been mine, so stop trying to impress Me. All you have to do is take my hand, and trust. I’ll lead you home.

So I write. I go back there, all these many memories later, and look for the things God would have me never forget. This is not a book about alcoholism or mental illness or depression, though I have inhabited those worlds. Instead, this is simply a story about remembering, and forgetting, and how God wondrously weaves both together into something that ultimately makes some sense of our lives, if we’ll only pause and listen. It’s about becoming a child again—breathlessly peering around the long-hidden corners, summoning from a place of courage far beyond ourselves the willingness to finally step out and come face to face with our fear . . . and there, in the rebirth of our vulnerability, to dangerously discover the meaning of our dreams.

Though the still-frightened part of me cannot imagine why anyone would be in the least interested in turning through the pages of this scrapbook of my life, here it is just the same, brought out of the cellar, dusted off and spread on the altar—a sacrifice offered up somewhat selfishly, for my own cleansing, in hopes of dragging my secrets out from under the rock of what I once was into the light of who He so lovingly desires me to become. Since God in His wisdom has decided to both deny and spare me the inevitable embarrassment of superstardom, this will not be the memoir of a famous person. I’m a songwriter, but this is no insider’s look at the music business. I’m a trained counselor, too, and although my own family’s dysfunction plays an important role in the early part of this story, you won’t find much here in the way of therapeutic psychobabble. Ultimately, we’re the same, you and I, and this is in a way at least a story about each of us, about our brokenness, our humanness. All of us have wounds. My story is more colorful than some, and less so than others; it is more tragic than many, yet less tragic than a great many more. All I really know for sure is this: My night was black enough—and the desire for death strong enough—that I can now look into the faces of pain I work with almost daily and see myself there, clearly. I have come alongside the kind of despair that makes suicide seem a very reasonable path to relief. I know, as so many of us do, what it means to hide from Him . . . the leper in each of us covering our sores with a dirty shawl, ducking into the nearest cave, vainly trying to seal his or her own worst fate—to never be touched or loved again.

This is a true story, at least as true as I can remember it to be, and I have reluctantly come to believe that mine—like the stories each of us carries through our lives—is one worth telling. As in all remembering, this painting is both portrait and pentimento, the truth slowly revealed only through the meticulous removal of many layers. Spoken in the native language of a man reunited with a childhood Companion, this is a faint yet familiar tale of fresh meadows still to be run through, and of shattered dreams and tears of healing in the arms of a long lost Best Friend. It’s the story of a modern-day prodigal son, and the singing again of a song from long ago thought forever lost. It is a soul-song, and each of us, if we concentrate, knows all the words by heart.

I hope some will see through the eyes of my journey a version of their own, and learn that while they may have felt forever lonely they have never been truly alone. Perhaps a few others will find something here that might stir within them at least a curiosity concerning the meaning of their own memories, and cause them to lean their child’s ear a bit closer to Christ’s lips. Because, when all is said and done, we have a choice of what we listen for . . . and what we dream.


 


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