This week, Christian singer/songwriter Matthew West released a book based on his well-known song, Hello, My Name Is. I have been blessed over the weeks leading up to this release to be reading a sneak peek preview copy of the book, and I think there are some things that are definitely worth saying about the book.
First, by now you know me well enough to know I'm not a fangirl. Of anybody. My passion runs deep for the Gospel, but that's about it. So what follows is not some crazy, "OMG, Matthew West is so awesome!" enthusaism. Sorry. Celebrity just doesn't impress me. (I don't think Matthew would mind my saying that, either.)
When I first started hearing about this book, I downloaded a free sample chapter that showed up in my email, and it told the story of this guy who showed up to one of Matthew's concerts and was forever changed by the experience. And I thought, alright, this is going to be a collection of the stories that Matthew's heard over the years. Real people's stories. The ones he's written his songs about. The ones who have taken the time to share their heart with him.
And you know I love good stories about real persons. You know, persons like you and me.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the full book to discover that it wasn't a collection of stories about real persons; it was a collection of personal stories from Matthew.
Imagine my greater surprise when I discovered through these stories that Matthew also happens to be a real person.
I know, right? But you start reading these stories about traveling through the airport with a guitar en route to the next big concert, and it's easy to think, "That's not my life." Or you read about that one time backstage at a concert...nope. I'm not living that either. These are the kinds of things that celebrities like to write about, the things that seem so normal to them but are so foreign to the rest of us that quietly, and without saying as much, they're telling you that there is a fundamental difference between you and them.
That's not this book. There are a couple of scenes like that, but by the time you get there, you're so overwhelmed with all of the completely normal things that Matthew has experienced that you're just connected to the guy on a person-to-person level, and when something about his profession happens to sneak in, that's okay. It feels just as normal to you as the rest of it, even if you've never been there.
Matthew talks about the mundane things, the sorts of things that happen to all of us, but what I love most about this book is that as your drawn through the threads that wind through the pages, you discover this guy who hears the same whispers that you do. You discover this guy who knows all the quiet things that get whispered into our hearts, the things we start to believe about ourselves just because we hear them echo in our empty places so much.
And then you can't help but think about the paradox of this guy who understands so intimately these whispers but who stands on the stage night after night blaring out anthems against them. It creates this incredible, beautiful tension between a loud public faith and a quiet spiritual struggle, and in doing so, you discover that faith need not be blind and heart must not be complacent. This life we live takes the full dynamism of both.
We must be willing to stand and shout, not because we don't hear the whispers but precisely because we do.
We must declare the truth precisely because we have heard the lies (and, we might add, because sometimes, we are haunted by them).
Then all of a sudden, you hear this song, this so-popular song, come across the radio, Hello, My Name Is, and you think about all the whispers that Matthew knows, all the quiet words he's heard - the same quiet words that all of us have heard - and you truly understand that this isn't really an anthem; this is a fight song.
And we're all just warriors with tears streaming down our faces, blood dripping down the Cross, and voices raised high over the whispers - that to whosoever it may concern (myself included because so often, I need the reminder), that....that is not my name.
Hello, my name is....
Matthew West's book, Hello, My Name Is released on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Although I was blessed to read an advanced copy of the book, I cannot be bought and the words above are my own honest reflections and nothing more. If you're interested in the book, you can check it out at Amazon or wherever fine books are sold. (Don't go where not-fine books are sold. You won't find it there.)