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
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
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
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
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.