"This is the great irony of seeking to define personhood through power. In our pursuit to be more than, to transcend our weakness and frailty, we are reduced. When we seek to create a self through our professional abilities and success, we are dehumanized, becoming less than God has called us to be. When we grasp for control of our identity to generate value and significance, we shrink our identity. We easily give in to the temptation to reduce our identities down to certain gifts, our professions, or the approval of others. The entire endeavor to create a self in our own power results in an empty, superficial self."
I read a book (of course I did) last summer called The Way Of The Dragon or The Way Of The Lamb.
It was written by a couple of guys who went around interviewing different pastors and spiritual leaders about the way the church - and primarily the Western Church - functions. The subtitle reads, "Searching for Jesus' path of power in a church that has abandoned it."
Years ago, when I was in a seminary class called Re:Train, I attended a lecture by Dr. Justin Holcomb, who spoke on something called "Paul's Downward Trajectory," and it has stuck with me to this day, and especially in the midst of the collapse of that very institution.
In essence – and I'm going to get nerdy for a minute so if you don't care or don't believe in anything that I'm talking about, well... sorry – there's a dude in this book called the Bible, named Paul. He used to be Saul, and he spent his time killing people who were followers of "The Way" of Jesus.
After that goes on for too long, Jesus comes as a bright light and literally knocks him off of his ass and blinds him for a while and changes him into a follower of The Way, too. He changes his name to Paul as an outward sign of an inward transformation that happens upon conversation.
Anyway, eventually, Paul starts writing letters to these churches that he plants, and when he does, he begins his early ministry by referring to himself as the least of the Apostles.
In humility, he doesn't count himself on par with the rest of the twelve who followed Jesus during his early ministry.
Later, he writes a few more letters from somewhere in the middle of his life, and this time, he refers to himself as the least of all the saints.
Even later and toward the end, he finally refers to himself as the foremost sinner.
"Least of the Apostles."
"Least of all the saints."
"The foremost sinner."
As another Biblical character put it: "He must increase, and I must decrease."
The Way of the Lamb isn't self-deprecation. Just last night, my friend Alex Early tweeted out a banger saying, "Self-hatred is not a fruit a fruit of the Spirit." Made me cringe when I read it. What a resonant word for someone who has not been shy about that very struggle.
But it's definitely not rebuilding Babel, either. My heart longs for the downward trajectory but what I see is Christendom and empires and culture wars and power grabs.
It's nothing new. I wrote about it in Joy Seekers, arguably the most "evangelistic" piece I've ever written. It's okay to both participate and critique – Jesus did that better than anyone.
Fast forward. These authors write:
"Notoriety has become the centerpiece of evangelical culture as a whole."
"No poison or sword aught to terrify you as much as the lust for domination."
Like I said a few days ago, I'm doing my best to withhold explanations about this record because I think that it takes away from the art and dumbs down an audience's opportunity to engage with and derive their own meaning from it. I like going into a new album not knowing much, and I like sitting with discomfort, and inviting others to do the same.
I wrote a commentary for my last record a year after the release date, and I've already got my wheels spinning about what – if anything – I'd like to do for this one, so the most I'm willing to give right now are breadcrumbs along the way and let them lie.
Tomorrow, at 12 Noon Mountain Standard Time, I am going to unveil preorder packages for my new record, and when I do, you'll get the chance to download the very first single of it for free along with your purchase.
My friend Jeremiah Givens (JGivens) is featured on the song with me. His album Fly Exam was perhaps my favorite record of 2016, and his "yes" was a greater honor than he may ever know. I simply sent him the first half and he sent me the second.
I don't know if you've read Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist, but whether it's him, or C.S. Lewis and the Inkling's, they all seem to boast stolen inspiration as if it's the only way to accomplish anything worthwhile. I am not going to speak on behalf of anything Jeremiah wrote - he got free reign (I'm also not a fan of stifling other people and what they have to say) – but as for my part, here's simply a bit of giving credit where credit is due.
A few final thoughts:
There can't be progress, it seems, without humility, and although despair is its own kind of pride, I've found that most of my indictments usually return to me.
Most of our fingers are pointed away from the reflections that they should be pointing to because not only is it easier to pinpoint the fault in someone else – we often don't realize the ways we built our own little towers inside.
That isn't the same as saying that there is no such thing as a victim. There certainly is, and I hope that there will be – at the very least – comfort in resonance, among a people and a God willing to sympathize with your weakness.
Perhaps it will prove to be your strength.
P.S. – Love y'all.