Lovely Things In Ugly Places - Introduction
I think God loves the broken ones. Maybe that’s my youthful zeal or relentless naïveté speaking, but I actually believe that there is a special place in God’s heart for those who are forgotten or feared by most of our post-modern church.
Over the last decade, I have spent many of my nights in smoky bars, sharing awkward moments with people who have given up on faith, and who doubt—sometimes violently—the existence of a loving God. During that time, I beheld time and time again a truth that transcended my understanding and whispered to my heart during the many moments that left me speechless: Wherever fear has built a wall, love can build a bridge. Even in the ugliest places, the light of hope can shine into the darkness of despair. And if we’re willing to step bravely in to the cold emptiness that so many call life, we just might see the beauty of hope begin to blossom again where there was once nothing.
As I write this, I am sitting on a tour bus in Dessau, Germany, getting ready to play another concert with my band For Today. A girl with blue hair just walked by the window, smoking a cigarette and holding hands with a guy who has a star tattooed on his face. This is my tribe. Most of us are awkward and antisocial; sometimes we’re angry, sometimes we’re sad, but at the end of the day, we’re glad to have each other. Metal heads need love too (no matter how hard we try to pretend we don’t).
Tonight, I will stand on stage at a metal show in a bar, and talk about Jesus to a crowd of people, most of whom just showed up to get drunk and crowd surf. Some of them will roll their eyes and laugh at me for it. Some of them will get angry and give me the finger for it. And some of them will have their lives changed forever. That’s just the way it goes here. I learned long ago that I can’t make people believe anything. No matter how persuasive or passionate I try to be, people only find what they are looking for. And tonight—just like the thousands of other times I have taken the stage in venues just like this around the world—I am looking for those who are looking for hope. I am a different man today than I was the first time I stepped on stage. A lot has happened over the years I’ve spent on the road with this band. Some of it has been beautiful and some of it has been devastating, but even if I could, I wouldn’t change a thing. It has been, after all, the times of greatest trial that taught me both who I am, and who I want to be.
Before we go any further, I feel like I should tell you up front, I am not the hero of this story. Most of the time, I felt more like a passive bystander—a happenstance onlooker witnessing these transformative moments in people’s lives and feeling overwhelmed at how strangely sweet or painfully sorrowful these moments can be. I’ve been blessed to see the hand of God working silently in the hearts and minds of men, molding them patiently and tenderly into the likeness of the person He wants them to be.
So what I’m writing here is not a book about God or religion; and it’s not really a book about me either. This is the story of a few silly kids who were fortunate enough to bump into each other during our desperate search for purpose. This is the story of what can happen when we are crazy enough to actually take God at His word. We have not been perfect, but we are living proof that He has been and continues to be. In both our successes and failures, through our victories and defeats, we have learned enough to know that we know very little, and we have grown enough to be okay with that.
This is the story of a wild adventure that I was dragged into nearly ten years ago. It has lead me all over the world, put my life on display in front of millions of people, and has been a constant reminder of just how small I really am. If I’m totally honest with you, I’m really not cut out for this. I never was. But I was ambitious (or maybe naïve) enough to say “yes” to it anyway. In writing this book, my desire is to take you with me as I relive some of the most significant moments of this journey, and to show you the things I’ve encountered along the way that have been so pivotal in making me me. I want you to see the beautiful hope that is born in the most pitiful circumstances, the resilience of the human heart, and the power of perfect love to conquer even the deepest fear. I truly hope that, in reading these stories of impossible things that have happened to (and sometimes because of) ordinary people, you might find the courage to believe that, as you dare to look, you too can find lovely things in ugly places.