I believe that I was 17 the first time I heard a Flyleaf song. I have always been attracted to music that I can feel the artist’s energy in their vocal delivery. As if they absolutely had to get this out of their system. With that said, I listen to a lot of rock music (whatever that means, it’s a huge scale of a genre nowadays) and when I heard Flyleaf, it just resonated. Here is this badass chick hanging with the boys and killin’ it! I felt her anger and her longing and her passion. I changed “All Around Me” to my ringtone and kept the rest of the album on repeat. I couldn’t get enough. I listened closely to the lyrics and knew she was singing about God, but just subtle enough to survive in the mainstream music world.
Fast forward 7 years later, I was browsing Flyleaf videos and came across a recent Lacey Sturm interview. She was talking about why she left Flyleaf and her new book, The Reason. “Wait, she wrote a book?!” I flocked to read the reviews and downloaded a sample onto my Kindle. I immediately purchased the book.
I had SO much in common with this woman, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I was just in absolute awe. Her timeline. The events that added up to make her the teenager that she was. Her musical influences. Her sad feelings of comfort. “My friend told me once that sometimes the sad place where we keep ourselves feels like free falling. It’s exhilarating even if it’s a fall into a dark place. I used to look at darkness and find it so deep and intriguing. I loved this about Kurt Cobain. He was honest. And being honest felt so much closer to being right. But eventually the shadows of darkness overwhelm and actually become part of you — that’s what happened to me. It begins with rebelling against all the shiny happy people. Then it turns into a thirst for sadness. And it bends and twists into a very dark, animal-like thing, as if the sadness has given birth to an evil so sly and cunning that it seeps in and suddenly you’re contemplating death..” (p.62) Whoa. Heavy… but true.
I won’t go into my whole life story, but I have definitely had my ups and downs (everyone does). Still, one thing always remaining: I found comfort in sadness. It feels real. Life is painful. I mostly would look at people and wonder how they go through day to day. What thoughts enter their mind? How are they ok? Music, books, movies, people expressing these existential thoughts and feelings. That’s what I gravitate towards. But where does that take me? “I adopted my own set of rules. I defined acceptance, success, goodness, and beauty. I was just as guilty as the prude, or the redneck, or the Christian– all those whom I felt had put their definitions on everyone else.” (p.113)
You can only keep living life this way for so long. Eventually, you get tired, lost, or depending on the severity of your choices, at rock bottom. “Emotions aren’t wrong, but letting them control your life and sway all your decisions can be deceptive and very destructive.” (p.132) I remember a specific time in my adult life where I just felt like I had nowhere to turn, I couldn’t take the heavy weight on my chest anymore, I just couldn’t find anything that would take away this consuming, paralyzing feeling. I was terrified this was going to be my life. For the first time in a very long time, I prayed. It was the only thing I could do. I prayed for help. I prayed for a way out. I prayed for direction. I prayed for strength. It wasn’t immediately after that things began to change, but I received a sign that let me know I was heard. A SIGN?? I know, I know. I sound crazy. I sound like a conspiracy theorist trying to prove a point by adding any relevant number to equal 666. Ok, maybe that’s extreme, but you get the point. I know how it sounds to some people when a Christian begins to talk about their experiences with God. However, you truly have to have your own genuine experience to believe. With this certain occurrence, I absolutely could not chalk it off as a coincidence. It was real and I was feeling God’s love again; something I hadn’t believed in for years now.
God brought someone very special into my life that I have been thankful for everyday since. It was the path I prayed for. Someone that gave me hope in humanity again. Hope that life can be fun. Hope that someone understands me. It was truly love at first sight. I was/am so so so happy and thankful for this person and the relationship that we still have today. However, I did not continue to have a relationship with God the way that I should have. I still had sporadic days where I would feel depressed for no reason. Always a longing to be somewhere else. When these days struck, I didn’t know what to do. I tried many methods that overall helped me, but I was still not fulfilled. Just coping. Trying my best to keep a smile on my face. Which in retrospect, sounds incredibly selfish. Especially since I am overwhelmed by the constant love and wisdom of my parents/family. Sometimes, people are just sad… Fittingly, a favorite lyric of mine from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” always comes to mind. “I find it hard, it’s hard to find. Oh, well. Whatever. Never mind.” So simple and yet it speaks volumes to a lost, sad soul.
“Faith involves risk.” (p.178) Maybe I have been afraid to be grouped as “one of those people”. I have been skeptical of or in disagreement with some beliefs of other Christians that I know. I’ve been too stubborn. Whatever the reason, I have not kept praying and giving it all to God. Momento Mori. “Remember you have to die.” Life is too short to be wishy-washy. I know what I have experienced and I know about the relationship that I have with God alone. It has filled a void for me that nothing else has ever been able to. His mercy and his love are irreplaceable, but it’s a decision that you must make for yourself.
I believe I found this book at the perfect time. Lacey’s story reminded me so much of my own. She encouraged me by recognizing that at first she was hesitant, she didn’t want to be grouped with people that she didn’t understand. It was more about her own relationship and wanting to spread that love and pull people out of a dark place. Not cast judgment, but use her voice to speak hope to the ones hurting. “What matters is knowing what season it is for you and knowing what you are meant to be doing today. That is where you will be the most fulfilled and where you will be the most effective at changing the world.” (p. 175)
“I must always remember that I will die, and I must remember this so that I can remember to live.” (p 181) Lacey’s story was the kick in the butt that I needed. I have been to some dark, anxiety-ridden places in my life. All of which molded me into the person that I am today. I am profoundly empathetic towards people who are in pain. People who are depressed. People who don’t want to carry on another day. “Though we’re all on unique paths, the beauty of this life is that we can encourage each other, be there for each other in different ways, and love one another through everything.”
I spent my days giving my heart away
To anything new
Only to ache from the poison of my
There were times I’d cry myself to sleep at night
Only to wake up
Wishing that I didn’t
And now I finally see the reason
‘Cause I was made to be yours alone
The Reason, Lacey Sturm
Whatever you believe in, it so very important to have a moral compass. A sense of gratitude. A sense of empathy. A greater sense of love. Know your life is important. Know that whatever thing you have done in your life that you no longer want to define you, you can be free of. Use your talents and make a positive impact on this world. You can save lives. “So many people live twisting in the wretched winds of despair and grief and anger, and they do so in relative silence. My passion, my drive, was to scream because it felt right. It felt like it might change something in some mystical way. It felt a little like prayers feel to me now: like my most honest response.” (p.80)
Thank you, Lacey, for sharing your heart and story with the world. Your bravery, passion, and love is contagious and has once again, led me closer to God. May this be the beginning of a beautiful journey filled with many lessons, tests, gratitude, awe-inspiring love, and unwavering faith. Amen!
Some of my favorite Flyleaf/Lacey songs:
Photos of Lacey by: Kaela Speicher Photography
– Naturally inspired. Locally aware. Universally beautiful. With love, Whitney.