This week, I’ve been thinking about longevity. In a fast-paced, frenetic (dare I say “millenial”) world of instant gratification, the idea of someone consistently staying at the net for the long haul is not the most appealing, or common, thing.
If you had to call it a characteristic in someone, it could be deemed a number of ways. At its worst, we call it stubborn. But I’m referring to terms like faithful; reliable; steadfast; consistent; unwavering.
What made me think about it was TobyMac’s new single, Help Is On The Way.
Considering that he’s been in the game for 34 years, sold more than 10 million albums and won seven Grammy Awards, I think his music is worth noting. You don’t have to like it, but you have to notice it. But that’s not why I like him.
Firstly, the man is 56 years old and sprinting down a street, singing his lungs out in this new video. Can we just appreciate that for a moment?
Secondly, I like the people around him – his family, his band Diverse City and the others that are involved in his work. They all seem like quality humans to me.
Thirdly, it’s the lyrics. And for me, lyrics matter.
For a man who lost his oldest son 18 months previously, the lure to be introspective and melancholy seems to have eluded the rapper. Yes, there was ‘21 years‘ – a single dedicated to the memory of Truett – and a couple of mild-tempo grooves on The Lost Demos last year. By his own admission in the “Behind The Song” video, he wrote a whole bunch of sad stuff following his son’s death.
But 18 months later, he unleashes Help Is On The Way.
It’s vehemency of TobyMac’s stoic faith in the face of what must be huge emotional and, I imagine, spiritual turmoil that really makes me sit up and listen. And ask a whole bunch of questions. Let me put them to you:
- How can you sing “Help Is On The Way” when you lost your son? How can you say God is “never early, never late” and “He gon’ stand by what He claim”?
- Surely a loving God wouldn’t allow a famed Christian artist’s son to die? I mean, if you love and serve God faithfully in music for 34 years, proclaiming the name of Jesus and God’s goodness, surely God wouldn’t allow your own son to die? (And what’s more, of an accidental drug overdose! I mean, is THAT all part of God’s plan?) That’s more than a bump in the road, surely? Isn’t God perfect, and His plans perfect?
- How do you keep going after all of that? Where do you find the strength, the resolve, the courage to get up and sprint down a street singing about promises of a God who “hasn’t failed me yet” and “He’s rolling up his sleeves again”?
I may attempt some answers and discussion in tomorrow’s podcast, but suffice to say that on the whole, this stuff stirs me in a way that very little else does.
On the face of it, TobyMac’s actions defy what most of the world would deem “common sense”. If he went off the radar and never got up on a stage again after such a life event as losing a child, I think most people would understand. Fans would be bleak, but they’d understand.
But to carry on hammering home the same principles, is either lunacy, or there’s something deeper going on. And it’s the deeper I’m interested in.
Eugene Peterson called it “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction”. The psalmist says “For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you’.”
It’s not instant gratification. It is the stuff of tough guys. Faithful people with an immovable resolve of deep truth, in a world that’s flaking.
And on a personal level, I’m grateful when people like this live out loud.