We have a tendency to put people on pedestals. The big-name pastor, the extraordinarily productive blogger, and the self-help author (sometimes all the same person) tell their followers how things should be, while they themselves stay a safe distance from the nitty-gritty of real life. And I totally eat it up! I follow these people on Twitter and I love their helpful articles, devotional tweets, and pictures of their awesome lives.
But sometimes, when I’m having a terrible day because I got into a fight with my wife or my paycheck is short a few Benjamins, the “gospel-centered” blogs and tweets don’t do much for me. Mine may be #firstworldproblems — I’ve never had a warlord burn my village — but come on, sometimes life gets me down.
When I get down, one of my go-to therapeutic outlets is music. Not feel-good music, but punk rock and country. Good “hard-times” songs remind me that everything is going to be okay. Not in a “look at these people, they have it so much worse than you” way, but in a “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” way. At the top of my secret Spotify “awful day music” playlist is the band Drive-By Truckers.
Drive-By Truckers has a new album, English Oceans, out (stream here on Spotify), and it’s very good. You should give it a listen, especially if you’re having a bad day. I love the Truckers because I can identify with them. They write songs about real people having bad days — or bad lives. In an excellent feature for Paste on the band, Geoffrey Himes pinpoints exactly what is that makes the Truckers special:
[the Truckers] are writing about their neighbors, the kind of blue-collar adults they might have become if the band hadn’t worked out — people who drink too much, earn too little, marry too hurriedly and grope for answers in a cryptic universe.
Regardless of your marital status or the color of your collar, that sounds a lot like life. I need encouragement, and I definitely need the gospel, but man, the honesty of the Truckers is refreshing. I think Christians can learn some key things from this band.
1. Everybody is as messed up as you are
I got a couple of opinions that I hold dear
A whole lot of debt and a whole lot of fear…
More bills than money, I can do the math
I’m trying to keep focused on the righteous path
Life is hard — for everybody. Well, maybe not everybody, but more people than you think. Pastors, accountants, students, baristas, and cashiers are all trying to keep their head above water, just like you. And Christianity is not a quick fix emotional high that takes away all of our sin, problems and struggles. And in the fight of faith, sometimes we just need to be reminded that what we are going through is normal.
Christians aren’t immune from hard marriages, toxic jobs, and alcohol problems. Instead of judging our brothers and sisters or at least pretending that we aren’t as bad off as everybody else, we can empathize. The Truckers write and live in the world we know so well, but are afraid to tell anybody about.
Jesus isn’t typically in the business of saving people who have it all together; in fact, it’s usually the misfits, failures and screw-ups who best understand grace. Following Drive-By Truckers, we can learn from people who are hurting. And we can admit that we rank among their numbers. In sharing the garbage of our lives, we can do more good than if we pretend to have all the answers.
2. Normal people still produce incredible stories
Outfit is one of my favorite Truckers songs. It’s not about something going wrong or somebody down on their luck — it’s just a little song about life. The song (you should probably watch the video above while reading this) details a father passing down advice to his son. The characters that Jason Isbell crafts in Outfit aren’t particularly special, but the song lets you into the lives of some normal people — and it is absolutely beautiful.
Likewise, not many of us are wise according to worldly standards, not many of us are powerful, and not many of us are of born rich. But God chose what is foolish in the world to reveal incredible truths. Jesus was a pretty mediocre dude by the standards of any time in history. God chose to incarnate as a laborer-by-trade born into a small town. Maybe this wasn’t an ironic choice; it just may prove that God is interested in the mundane and mediocre that we try so desperately to hide.
If your life is hard, you’re in good company. Don’t let the polished Facebook façades and pithy tweets get you down. Listen to Drive-By Truckers if you’re feeling like life is awful.
Christians need this kind of honesty in their homes, and in their discipleship. The cross that declares us justified allows for the kind of honesty that can say “My life is a wreck, my home is a wreck, and everything is feels like it’s collapsing, and that’s just a normal day.”
Our brokenness doesn’t surprise Jesus, so let’s be as honest as the Drive-By Truckers are in their songs. Maybe give them a listen on a bad day.