Grammy Award-winning, Billboard-topping artist Lecrae opened up about the painful yet rewarding process of restoration following much success, deep depression, and almost losing his marriage.
The founder of Reach Records has released what might be his final full-length album, Restoration. It’s his most vulnerable album yet. The album is accompanied by a three-part YouTube series, titled “The Road to Restoration,” and a book to be released Sept. 13, titled I Am Restored: How I Lost My Religion But Gained My Faith.
On choosing to be transparent and vulnerable, the artist said, "You're going to have to be fully known in order to be fully grown. That's just what's going to have to happen. So I wanted to model that. I think Jesus models it perfectly by Him in the garden sweating and asking, could His friend stay up and pray with Him? That's some serious vulnerability."
In an interview with The Christian Post, the iconic emcee spoke candidly about his new album, where he currently is in life and what led him to the place he is now in God.
Christian Post: In your music and your new YouTube series, “The Road to Restoration,” you've given us a glimpse into your personal life. Can you talk about wanting to open up that door for the world to really see the man behind the artist?
Lecrae: I just think it was time. I wanted people to be able to see who I was as a human being and that's really a large part of my being restored, my faith being restored, my mental, emotional, spiritual self — finding healing there was being free to not be a caricature, being free to be all of myself and to let people see that for who I was.
CP: At the start of the YouTube series, young Lecrae is heard talking about your dreams of marriage and musical success. How was it realizing that the dreams you had as a child came true?
Lecrae: That was crazy to me. Watching it was the first time I realized that all those things being put together. So that was mind-blowing. I had to take a minute and be like, "Wow, God is good. Thank you, mom for supporting me." It was just kind of crazy to realize. It made me more grateful. It made me more appreciative of some of the things that I've gotten to experience in life.
But at the same time, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it and it doesn't always come in the way you think it will.
CP: As a man of faith in the midst of this fame, do you feel like you were bitten by the fame bug and went astray?
Lecrae: Oh, yeah, for sure. Nobody's immune from it, especially somebody like myself who experienced a lot of trauma as a kid, so there's a lot of insecurities. You haven't dealt with the fact that you feel like you're unwanted and so every award you win, every song that hits the charts, is feeding you a lie of "this is where your value comes from, this is where your worth comes from." You don't realize that. It's very subtle but it starts to take root in your heart.
If you don't have the tools to fight it, then it really does take a toll on you. Now you're wrestling with trying to keep your worth intact. So everything is not about doing things out of love and out of freedom and out of faith, it's about doing things out of "I have to perform to be loved because if I don't perform, I will not be loved." And that's the lie you start believing.
CP: So what freed you from that?
Lecrae: There's a saying that freedom takes an instant to take somebody out of slavery; it takes an instant. But it takes a lifetime to take the slavery out of the person. It took work and time to get a different perspective. First, it had to be revealed to me that that was even something I was struggling with. Honestly, the wake-up call for me was waking up in a clinical depression. It was like, "Something is wrong with me." It wasn't like "I'm sad." It was like I have no ability to enjoy things.
It was just a mask. I was like "what is this?" And I couldn't shake it. I was like "something's wrong in my brain." I just could not shake it and as I got scared about it, then anxiety crept up. So now it's depression and anxiety. I think God just put me on my back in order to give me the opportunity to say you're going to have to take a deeper look at yourself and some of the issues that you have, the trauma that you have, and really do some work internally.
CP: Can you share about the importance of actually going through the process of restoration?
Lecrae: The thing I learned is that God is not transactional, He's relational. He doesn't snap His fingers. He could but typically He doesn't snap His fingers and make it go away. He walks with you through it. The reason why that is, is because that's how the relationship is developed. If He just snaps His fingers, you don't really appreciate Him. You don't develop a relationship with Him. You don't learn how you and Him are interconnected. You just have a genie now and you have a microwave, you push a button and then your food comes up. But He's saying, "No, I want to cook in the kitchen with you. I want to chop up the onions with you. I want to handle everything with you. This is a bonding opportunity for us and I want you to see how I'm going to work in and through you and I want you to appreciate how much I care for you and I love you."
Another way I would say it is, it's like getting sick with the flu and you've got someone there who is making you soup, bringing you something to drink, rubbing your feet, changing your covers — that makes you greatly appreciate them for how they're by your side. I think that's what God is trying to do for us in that moment. Really, us wanting it to go away quickly, really shows us how much more we need to develop that closeness with God than we have in the past.
CP: While listening to some of the tracks on the album, you are very vulnerable. Can you talk about the beauty of being transparent?
Lecrae: I think a very practical level, you're not going to heal until you can acknowledge what's going on with you. I hope people don't hear me saying, "You have to be vulnerable with the world in order to be healed." But I didn't mind doing that for the sake of other people. That's something that I chose to do. But you do have to be vulnerable with somebody. You do have to be vulnerable with close friends, with the therapists, with your spouse, so that you can experience real healing.
You're going to have to be fully known in order to be fully grown. That's just what's going to have to happen. So I wanted to model that. I think Jesus models it perfectly by Him in the garden sweating and asking, could His friend stay up and pray with Him? That's some serious vulnerability. He didn't say, "Oh, man, I got this, it's nothing." It's like, "No, I am stressed out, I am afraid." That is a picture for us, that's a model for us to follow, it's just to admit where we are. All the Psalms written in the Bible are just full of vulnerability. So that's a model for us to follow.
That's kind of what I wanted to do, was just let people know, "Hey, listen, this is where I'm at." Last reason I'd say, I wanted to do that as well, is because I'm a public figure and when you're a public figure, there's a tendency to believe that they have it all together or they're invincible. I just wanted to tear that down. When I saw people tearing down Ayesha Curry for her being honest in an interview, I thought to myself, that's so messed up that she doesn't have a safe place to be free, without people tearing her down. It's so messed up that people, we're just objects and we're not people anymore.
CP: You touch on something that I've never heard you talk about, the reality of your marriage and the beauty of it but also the trials that happened. Can you talk about the road to restoration, even in marriage?
Lecrae: There's no marriage that is beyond restoration. Hear me when I say that. It doesn't mean it's going to happen overnight and it doesn't mean it'll happen in a year. If I’m going to be completely honest, it took us years to get to a breaking point. It took us years of just kind of like going through the motions and not really dealing with all the small pile-ups over the years. Not dealing with those until eventually, it's like playing a game of Jenga — you just keep stacking up little stacks and then one year they just tumble. Ours tumbled, but God is a restorer. So regardless of the circumstances and situation, He can put things back together the right way.
What I would tell people is that if you have not exhausted yourself with counseling, with working on yourself, then you haven't given it everything you got. You can't change another person, but you can work on yourself in that process and maybe in working on yourself, you learn how maybe you were contributing to the trauma and the problems in the household or in learning about yourself, maybe you realize, you're being stepped on and you're not saying something about it, and you have more value in worth than you even understand. So there's a lot in that process as well.
But listen, there's no marriage that's beyond restoration. God can do it, sincerely, and I just want to get people that. If you already made a decision to get divorced, restoration is still possible for you as well. So I want people to know that as well; there's still hope.
CP: In thinking of the concept of restoration and your own process, why do you think restoration is so important to God?
Lecrae: What's crazy to me is that restoration is a perfect picture of love and grace. I tell my kids all the time, He's a father. So I tell my kids, "There's nothing you can do to make me love you more or less." I want them to know that they can never go too far to where I'm like, "I don't love that kid anymore." Or they don't have to perform for me to where I'd be like, "Alright, I think I love them more now because they did this thing." God is more perfect than I am and there's nothing we can do to make Him love us more or less. There's no situation that we're in that He's not wanting to help us through.
Psalm 23, it says, "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." When it says follow me or pursue me, it means like a hunter pursuing prey, like God is chasing you down with goodness and mercy. So that's just something I think we have to remember in the middle of all of the storms and problems that we're experiencing — is that God has not left us. He's chasing behind us with goodness and mercy and restorative work for our lives.
CP: In this time of standstill, this time of quarantine for a time or restriction, what's something new that God has revealed to you?
Lecrae: I think one thing that He showed me is that it's OK to be still. It's OK to be still and know He's God. It's OK to not be busy every five seconds. It's OK to spend time and be present. You can be present when you're not flying all over the country, all over the world. So that's something that I've learned, is to be present, is to be available.
Also to see what you need and don't need. I'll do you one better, to see that God provides for our needs. I've learned that as well, is that many of us are not in the positions that we were in prior to this, but God is still good. He's still the same yesterday, today, forever. So we'll be OK. We don't know what the future holds but we know we can hold on to His promise. We know who holds the future.
CP: In an interview with Rapzilla, you mentioned you were retiring. Is that really happening?
Lecrae: I'll definitely say this: I'm OK if I don't ever tour again. I'm fine never touring. It doesn't mean I won't do shows. I guess what I'll say more than anything is if this is my last album, I'm OK with that. I'm OK if I never tour again. I'm very content. I'm in a good space. I love to create music. I'll probably create music forever but I don't have to make albums. I may make a song here. I may feature on somebody's project. I may do a mixtape or something but I don't have to make an album.
After I get on the road again in 2021, I'm pretty sure I don't need to do a 50-city tour again. There's just so many other things that I've been able to explore while I've been here that I think God is moving me into.
CP: What are some of these other things that you feel like you'll delve into in the future?
Lecrae: I think when you are the engine behind your own career, you don't have as much time to get behind other people's careers. So there's some things I want to get behind some people, some educational gaps I want to close for some kids, some financial gaps I want to close for some communities, some artists that I really want to spend more time pushing and getting behind. So if I'm not constantly worried about my projects and what I got going on, then I can get behind some other people and push their things and so that's kind of the lane that I feel like I'm moving in.
CP: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Lecrae: I just want people to have hope. The tomb is empty. Regardless of what's going on around us, death is defeated and nothing we're dealing with is bigger than death. If death is defeated, then everything else with it, it doesn't have as much power, so be encouraged.
Restoration is available Aug. 21.