Went to see Augustines at The High Watt this past weekend. It was easily one of the best shows I have been to. Ever. It had all the hallmarks of a good show. Great banter and audience engagement, great music, on the fly set tailoring based on the audience, off the mic acoustic songs, up on the bar acoustic songs, etc. But none of these are why it hit the high spots. The key reason it was a great show was brokenness.
Brokenness. Billy McCarthy is a broken man. And he knows it. But his brokenness is tinged with hope and expectation. Being broken is not the end, its the beginning. Its a place to move on from, not to wallow in.
And this is what makes the Augustines a great example for musicians identifying as Christians to follow.
And people identify with broke down and busted. Deep down, people know they are broke down and busted too.
As Kingdom people, our lives are devoted to obedience to the King. As we obey, we become more and more like our King. We start to think, talk, act, and ultimately, love, like our King. But sometimes, we revert to our old selves. We look to our right and to our left to gauge our own progress in the Kingdom relative to others. And we form opinions of where we should be or where others ought to be. And its at this point that our brokenness becomes a liability. We see our brokenness as a bad thing, a thing to be expunged. We forget that our brokenness is what brought us to our knees before our King. It was our entry into the Kingdom.
And we forget that others enter the Kingdom through brokenness as well. And to connect with people, to really love them well, is to enter into their brokenness. When Jesus went to raise Lazarus, he knew full well that Lazarus was “asleep” and that Jesus was going to “wake him.” Yet, when we got there and saw the tomb and Mary, he wept. He was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” Jesus wept. He wept right before he called Lazarus out. He entered into Mary and Martha’s brokenness. How easy would it have been to say “Now, now, be patient. I will fix this”. He did say something similar to Martha prior, but then He entered their brokenness, their pain, their discouragement.
Billy McCarthy is broken. And in that audience, I saw people identify with his brokenness. As he sang the last song perched on the bar, an unplanned moment of vulnerability the like of which I have never seen in a live performance, in a naked falsetto on the verge of tears “Into the arms of a sea, where the tide had carried me, I walked out into the waves, to be quiet with the storms inside”, Billy laid his soul bare for all to see. And in that moment, made an impact on the crowd. He made a connection. He stood at the door of the Kingdom while the King stood with open arms, eager to embrace.
I don’t know that Billy has ever known the warm embrace of the King, a redeeming embrace that touches the brokenness and changes the story in an instant. But I know that in his desperation, the King is present.
This is where we, as Kingdom creatives need to be. We need to be weeping with those who weep, even when the solution to the problem is obvious before us. We need to embrace our brokenness. Paul reminds the Corinthians “such were some of you” in the same way he considers himself the “chief of sinners.” When we embrace our brokenness, even when it has been redeemed, we give hope to those looking for it. We need to remember what we have been saved from so that we can guide those who need saving.
Our Kingdom role is not to throw life preservers to the drowning, it is to dive in and give them ours, knowing that even if we were to drown, there is victory. The worst that can happen to us is the very best that can happen to us.
My brokenness led to my redemption. Its only the broken who need fixing. And no matter how long I am graced with life, I will always be broken in need of fixing, in need of saving.
Stay help take these shadows off me, stay here all night
Nothing’s easy or comes soft you know.
When somethings gone thats so phenomenal.
If I’m wrong then its all right.
What am I running from? What am I running from?
Myself and everyone.
—Now You Are Free by Augustines
Here is a link to the new album. Highly recommended, obviously.