A caterpillar and a butterfly sit down for drinks. The caterpillar says to the butterfly, “You’ve changed.” The butterfly responds, “We’re supposed to.”
For humans, these transformations don’t tend to happen in the safety of a cocoon, but in the crucible of crisis. Lecrae’s I Am Restored marks the second book that recounts crisis and transformation that I have read this year, the first being Another Gospel by Alisa Childers. One might add Esau McCaulley’s struggles with biblical interpretation to the list.
Childer’s crisis of faith had a single point of struggle: A pastor who called into question her fundamental beliefs about the work of Jesus and the reliability of Scripture. Lecrae’s struggles were more multifaceted and personal. He wrestled with the demons of past trauma – childhood sexual and physical abuse – that continued to haunt him into his adulthood. He also struggled with a sense of alienation from his fans and theological tribe, a rift that widened when he began to directly address issues of race and justice.
Other issues added to the chaos: substance abuse, marital division, clinical depression, a breakdown of accountability structures that led to highly curated “authenticity” and a general loss of faith. Lecrae’s restoration out of this turmoil didn’t happen overnight. Nevertheless, it proved to be the crucible that led to his (yet incomplete) transformation. Here are a few noteworthy shifts:
From self-reliance to acceptance of help through licensed therapy: Lecrae found great value in therapy, not only when he faced depression, but as a way of maintaining good psychological health.
From curated authenticity to confession and openness with those who loved him most. He had previously shared sensitive areas of his life to help his fans but hid the darkest corners from his closest friends. Part of his transformation came from confessing his sins and experiencing the forgiveness extended to him. He doesn’t enter this new form of honesty in a performative way to help others heal, but to help him heal from his own trauma.
From rote spiritual disciplines to rhythms of rest and meditation. Lecrae’s relationship with the spiritual disciplines is idiosyncratic. At his worst moments, prayer and Scripture reading had gone out the window. In one false start to pull himself up by his spiritual bootstraps, he reignited those disciplines, but to no avail. Part of the problem was that he was going to Scripture primarily for head knowledge, not to see himself in God’s redemptive story. His new disciplines (rhythms) include meditation and daily, weekly (Sabbath), and annual times of rest.
From a narrow to a broad view of the Church. Early in Lecrae’s spiritual journey, he fell in love with a distinct American Reformed theology and the community that surrounded it. He has since expanded spiritual and theological horizons to learn from brothers and sisters around the world. He discovered that Christianity was not just a white man’s religion, but one that found expression in many different cultures.
From self-righteousness to complete dependence on God. Ironically, you would think that his love for Reformed theology would have kindled in him a sense of dependence on God. Instead, his caterpillar self simply longed merely to be “right.” He prided himself on knowing all the theological facts. He looked down on others who did not. This pride lay at the heart of many of his issues. He needed to come face-to-face, once again, with the God who showed his grace, not only at a moment of salvation but throughout the whole of his life.
Here Lecrae makes a critical distinction for his readers. He wants us to know that God, and communion with him through Jesus, is the only final answer to our chaos and trauma. At the same time, he embraces the provisions that God offers to mediate his healing to us. Note this important paragraph:
We must use every muscle of faith and every human tool in its proper context, as God intended. I’m tempted to say, at this point in my journey, that counseling is the answer. Counseling is not the answer, it is the provision for my health. Others might think that eating right and exercise are the answer. They are not the answer, but the provision. These tangible means are benefits, but they are not preeminent. We need every tangible muscle but we also need the intangible muscles of spiritual fellowship with God.
I have never experienced the sort of trauma that Lecrae has, but I found this book at points convicting and healing. It was convicting because he uncovered my own self-righteousness. It was healing because it reminded me of God’s love and redemption. Lecrae covers a broad range of topics, but at its core is the gospel truth that God’s restoration is available to absolutely anyone.