It’s a story for those who are struggling. Who are facing fatherlessness, brokenness, addiction or pain. It is for those who are facing life. And it’s a story telling how beauty comes out of ashes.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. HE has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim FREEDOM for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” –Jesus- (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Fact is: JESUS came for the lost, the broken, the captives, the slaves, for those who don’t have it all together. For people like you and me, for people like Lecrae.
When Lecrae was born, his mother had just been 23 years old and had already broken up with his father, who was addicted to drugs and alcohol and displayed a very aggressive behavior. So Lecrae grew up as a fatherless child, living in the hood, moving with his mother from city to city.
Already from the beginning of his life Lecrae faced feelings of insignificance. He always felt “less than”, wrestled with self-esteem and a lack of identity. He believed that his problems and his pain were not important and didn’t matter to anyone.
Due to his emptiness he used to act out. There was a hole in his life and his heart left by his father’s absence. But what probably hurt the most was that his father decided to stay away and never even bothered about his son. “Every child wants and needs a father, and mine didn’t want anything to do with me.”
So he struggled with confusion, frustration, woes. He constantly wrestled with his self-worth and craved the approval of others, wondering if he was even worthy of love. And because he lacked a consistent male role model in his life, he had no idea what it meant to be a man.
Lecrae was longing for real role models who understood him and never left his side. Role models that he could relate to. Role models that told him the truth about life. And this is the point where hip-hop crushed in and filled the cracks left by his father’s absence. For Lecrae music became his everything but it could never solve all things.
NOWHERE TO RUN
After the boyfriend of Lecrae’s mother snapped his nose bloody and also other family members started to smack him whenever he did something wrong, Lecrae began running away from home a lot. But where do you go when you have nowhere to run? “Home is the place where kids can go when they are hurting and afraid and confused. But I had nowhere.”
At that time Lecrae also didn’t bother about God. In a world like his- full of traumas and brokenness- God was an afterthought. He didn’t believe that God existed or even cared about people like him.
“I wish I knew that I was still valuable and loveable. I wish I knew that my dignity was not determined by my circumstances but burned into me before birth. The events that happened to me violated my dignity, but they didn’t remove it.”
Lecrae’s artistic side and his talent for music and rapping was already detected in elementary and also in Junior High School but he always wanted to fit in so he gave up his artistic side. He used to go to an artistic Junior High School where he would be supported in using his talents. But because he didn’t seem to fit in there and wanted to go to a normal school together with his friends, he convinced his mother to sign him in at another school. From then on Lecrae spent a lot of time at the streets, doing vandalism, trespassing and other stupid things. At this time he didn’t know who he was. The only thing he knew was: He didn’t fit in anywhere.
When he moved with his mother to Dallas no black people could be found around him. His isolation, depression and despair grew worse. He tried even harder to fit in and felt even more alone.
Trying to flush his loneliness away, Lecrae started to smoke weed, drinking more alcohol and dating a lot of girls, trying to find fulfillment in relationships and sex.
GONNA BE WEAK TODAY
Then he started to find answers in different religions. First, Islam seemed to make sense to him. But after one month he gave it up. “In Islam, my standing with God depended on my efforts to be righteous, and I was sure I couldn’t live up to that standard.”
Lecrae grew even more desperate. One day he climbed on the roof of his house, taking a shard of glass with him and wanted to kill himself. “I thought, if this is weak, I’m going to be weak today. I’ve punched holes in doors, and I’ve punched people’s faces. What else can I do to get rid of my frustration? I felt like every breath I took was a waste and I didn’t want to take any more.”
But with the glass pressed against his wrist, something held him back: Hope, very faint hope. Somehow he hoped that someday someone would save him out of this. That someday everything would change.
While Lecrae was there on the roof, almost about to kill himself, his mother called the police which could eventually convince him to come down. After the police were gone, his mother said to him: “Nothing I’m doing is working. Nothing is helping you. Right now, only God can help you.” And she gave him a bible. But Lecrae tore the pages out of the bible. He tried to destroy the only thing that could rescue him.
WHERE ARE YOU HEADING?
One day, when Lecrae was 16 years old, he came home drunk once again, when he ran into his step-dad. In the middle of the night his step-dad talked to him and told him that he was heading nowhere if he continued to live like this. This got Lecrae thinking and from this day on he started to change his life: He signed in for college.
Then one weekend, Lecrae went on a Christian conference together with some other college students. There he experienced the love God had for him and he entrusted his life to Jesus. “I didn’t need to keep trying to fill the hole left by my absent dad; I had gained a heavenly Father. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of purpose and identity.”
OLD HABITS DIE HARD
However, after he had given his life to Jesus, it didn’t all go well. “Old habits die hard, and if you’re not careful, the person you used to be can overtake the person you’re trying to become.”
“A person can be removed from slavery in an instant, but it takes a lifetime for slavery to be removed from a person.”
Lecrae started to live a lifestyle in which he was trying to earn rightousness. When he did a lot of Christian stuff he felt good but when he missed for example his daily quiet time he felt bad. He stopped going to any party and broke up contact to all his non-Christian friends. After being on a spiritual high for several months, Lecrae attended a party once again and from then on he started living a double life. The harder he partied, the more he ran from God and the more empty his life felt.
Eventually, he quit college and got into more troubles than ever before. However, God was trying to get his attention. “I was making a mountain of mistakes, but I was not alone. God had seen my many failures, but He hadn’t left me as a result. And yet I was still unwilling to surrender. To let go. To give up control. I still wanted to run the show and carve my own path and make my own way. I wanted God in my life, but only in the background. I wasn’t giving up the starring role. Somehow I ignored the fact that whenever I took the lead, I always messed things up.” Lecrae had no idea that he was about to mess up his life more than ever before by making the greatest mistake of his life.
One day Lecrae got the shocking message: His girlfriend was pregnant. When he heard this he immediately tried to persuade her to abort the baby which she finally did even though she actually didn’t want it. But as he was some years older, he had the manipulating power to push through the only- he thought – “solution” to this problem. Then, some time later he broke up with his girlfriend, leaving her alone with the pain of having had an abortion.
After that Lecrae tried to kill himself by swallowing pills- however unsuccessfully. He woke up again and was brought into a rehabilitation facility.
In rehab, Lecrae started to read the bible and couldn’t stop. Finally he understood what it was all about. Finally he got the truth about who God is. And his life started to change.
Falling isn’t the end of the world as long as you get back up and keep walking.
Lecrae realized that being a Christian doesn’t mean life is easy. “You’ll actually experience more temptation, not less, after you become a Christian. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll start living perfectly overnight. It certainly doesn’t mean that your problems will disappear. Rather than ridding you of problems or temptations, following Jesus just means that you have a place- no, a person- to run to when they come. And the power to overcome them.”
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”-Romans 1:16-
Lecrae learned to be unashamed. Unashamed to be broken, needy, helpless, to be stumbling more than he was stepping. Unashamed to admit that he was not brave enough, tough enough, strong enough.
“I can’t save myself through my own strength, through pretending. By working harder or pulling myself up by my boot straps. There’s no woman that can save me. No drug that can save me. No program or clinic that can save me. I no longer thought I was a Christian because I was strong and had it all together; I now knew I was a Christian because I’m weak and admitted I need a Savior. There was no other power that could save me outside of the power of God.”
∼quotes and source: Lecrae’s biography “Unashamed”∼