There’s just something extremely powerful about a former drug addict or a survivor of suicide attempts or mental illness standing on stage at a music festival sharing their testimony for hundreds of people.

That’s exactly what my family and I witnessed many times this past weekend at Creation Festival — a 4 day music and camping extravaganza that was amazing in so many ways. From 9am until 11pm each day there was music and testimony going on non stop at several different stages. We camped among thousands of people in grassy fields and when we weren’t listening to music we played frisbee, Cam Jam, Spike Ball, soccer and catch or spent time with band members after they performed. Home base was at the smaller stage where the hard core, heavy metal and rock bands played. Believe it or not there have been people in the past who have complained that heavy metal, circle pits and screamo lyrics have no place at a Christian festival. It’s unfortunate that people don’t take the time to listen to the lyrics and stop to watch and experience the passion these bands bring to the stage. A person cannot stand on stage screaming their lungs out for 45 minutes if they are not passionate about what they are doing and believe with every fiber of their being that their message is important.

Sure it’s loud — sometimes painfully. Sure they bang their heads, whip their long hair and thrash their tattooed bodies all over the stage (as well as most of us in the crowd) but they are telling stories, sharing pain and triumph and worshipping in such a raw and genuine way you can’t help but feel the power as it rocks your soul.

To me, these are the bands I connect with. While on stage screaming, singing and connecting with the crowd, they seem larger than life. But then a mere 10 minutes later they are giving you hugs, asking for your story, giving advice, taking pictures and praying with or for you.

I think it’s awesome and beautiful to hear traditional worship music and listen to a speaker share scripture and talk about how great God is. For me though, that has never moved me. I need to know someone gets me. When a band member speaks to the crowd and holds nothing back, turning away from the rock star status announcing that it’s not the music that matters but the message, it means something special. Then with tears in their eyes (yes, the big tattooed, long haired, former drug addict) but thunder in their voice they proceed to share their experience with drugs, suicide attempts, depression etc. This is the point I get chills and something moves me powerfully. They talk about how they overcame all the hardship, pain and despair only because of God’s help and they owe everything to Him. They dedicate their lives to sharing their story because they were changed so dramatically and are unashamed while doing so. That is inspirational. That’s what chokes me up. It touches lives and we were able to be a part of that power of testimony and faith.

So many times I have been on the brink of tears from the rawness. I have felt the presence and power of God through this and have wanted to run to the stage and scream about everything that’s ever hurt me,the hopelessness and anger that’s overwhelmed me in order to let others know that I get it. I’ve been there and it will get better. Because He’s saved my life over and over again it’s worth screaming about.

But I’m not a singer (as my kids always remind me!) but I do write. As I write I feel the emotion travel through my pen as it becomes my voice on the page. I want people to know that no matter how lost, depressed, hopeless or suicidal they feel they are not alone.

I want more than anything to continue to share my story because I know so many struggle with the exact things I’ve overcome. At times it can feel embarrassing or cause me to feel uncomfortable as I let skeletons out of the closet but if it helps just one person then it’s worth it.

That’s why we ALL have to get real. We can’t hide by putting on masks and pretending everything is perfect. I guarantee there is at least one person out there who feels alone and needs to hear what you have to say. Every single one of us should have the opportunity to stand on stage and passionately tell our story. It should be a requirement for this life. That’s what I envision every time I write.

Be brave. Take the first step whether it’s to share what you’ve overcome or what you are in desperate need of. We are all together in this journey that I like to think of as an adventure leading to bigger and better things. Let’s not judge. Let’s join together and get real. Let’s accept and love and be touched by each unique story there is to tell.

Who knows…the dude covered in tattoos or the girl with purple hair and countless piercings might just have exactly what you need to hear but YOU need to stop and listen. Chances are you will have more in common than you know and when we share and listen that’s when we find out that we are not alone. I have learned so many lessons from the people I would least expect. Sometimes it’s through a song or a book or a blog. Sometimes it’s through students or family or strangers at a concert. The common thread is that I would never have learned what I needed to know at the time if that person hadn’t taken a risk, opened up and got real. That’s when lives are changed and isn’t that something we all want to accomplish? It may be difficult at first but I promise you it is absolutely worth it!

Here are some bands who have made a very big difference in my life and my family’s lives and I want to thank them for being open and raw and inspiring me to do the same…

Rock/Metal:

Silent Planet
Seventh Day Slumber
Disciple
Lacey Sturm
Sleeping Giant
Phinehas
August Burns Red

Rap/Hip Hop:
Lecrae
Tedashi
Andy Mineo
NF
KB

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