Speaker and worship leader Matt Bays releases Finding God In The Ruins: How God Redeems Pain March 1, 2016 from David C Cook. The book offers story-based insights (i.e. narrative spirituality) for helping readers reject the false promises of religious clichés so they can discover a real and lasting redemption far more powerful and life-giving than the temporary fixes of sanitized Christianity.
Hallels: Thanks Matt for your time. Tell us a little about yourself.
First off, thanks for taking the time out to do this interview. I appreciate being able to talk about my book and reach out to people I might never get the opportunity to meet in person.
I am a musician/worship leader turned writer/speaker and have been in full-time ministry for 21 years, most recently at Northview Church in Carmel, IN. where I have led worship for the last 9 years. I am a dad of two teenage girls, and a husband to my wife, Heather, who is also a musician. I try to live my life honestly, because living with secrets nearly took the life I have away from me. Honesty is the lens through which this book was written.
Hallels: Before we delve into the book, for the sake of our readers who may not have read the book, briefly tell us what your new book is about.
In many ways this book is about how the Christian culture has perpetuated religious clichés, believing that God will keep us safe and heal all of our pain. We've heard things such as, "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will fall into place in your life." But Christians and pastors have made these promises into empty clichés and people are tired of pretending they are true. Are they true? Sure they are...but certainly not the way we've been told; because people die, and things do not always work out for us. Being HONEST with ourselves (and especially with God) will help us in REunderstand redemption - what it REALLY is. This is how we will find God in the ruins. It's a process.
Hallels: In the book, you did talk about being "raised by wolves" and incest. What words of healing do you have for our readers who have been broken because of sexual sins in the past?
That word (incest) makes us cringe. It even made my publishers cringe. And it should. It's ugly. When I say I was raised by wolves I mean that my childhood was chaotic and abusive in every way. The man I now refer to as "The Step Dad From Hell" came into my world when I was three, making us a step-family, and with his arrival, began his assault. Violence and sex were his weapons of choice. Not everyone has had this experience, I realize, but for those of us who have, a part of you feels that you can never recover. We are told to forget the past and press on with our lives, but that is such destructive and cruel advice.
What happened to us is and always will be a part of our story. We cannot change the past, but we can move on from here. BUT...we must always remember what we've been through, because it will always effect us (either for good or bad). Dan Allender says, "Out of our wounds, from the core ache within us, comes our calling." I never wanted God to use my bad story to make his story look good. I wanted to shelve my story in the out-of-print section of the library and never hear from it again. But as Samuel Pisar says, "We may not live in the past, but the past lives in us." And if this is true, we won't be able to ignore it even if we try. It will find its way into our lives and be used to help others, or it will show up in physical or mental illness, addiction, fear, control, etc.
But here's the thing, when you bring a dark thing into the light where Jesus can get his hands on it, it can morph into something beautiful and useful. THAT'S redemption. But as I've said, it's a process. And understanding that process is what the book is about.
Hallels: After your experiences of suffering and healing, how would you respond to the cliche "God can't give you more than you can handle." Do you think this is true? If not, what would you say in response to such a saying?
Listen, this question is too hard. Can you answer it for me? Maybe this question I can figure out for book number 2.
Honestly, I'm glad you asked this question, because God is simply beyond me. I do not understand his higher ways. Has he given me more than I can handle? Absolutely. Yes, he has. Has he given me too much for us to handle together? Not a chance.
God is the best thing that has ever happened to me. We do life together. I scream at him and tell him all the things he should've protected me from - I have accused him, lashed out, and like David, called him a liar. And sometimes when I've said all I've need to say, he says back to me, "I'm sorry for all you've gone through, Matthew." Even when I've said the kind of things that would make your blood run cold, he's simply said, "Are you finished?" This natural back-and-forth is our relationship. And when I'm honest with him, I can feel the sharp edges of my pain softening. That's when I hear him say, "Matthew, it's going to be okay." And so far, it actually has been.
Hallels: What about the cliche "Everything happens for a reason"? Do you think this is true? Why?
That cliché isn't a problem if you're talking about a kid who has lost a piece of candy through the bleachers at a football game. But it doesn't work for cancer. And it doesn't work for divorce. And if someone's kid has just died, a cliché like that can make God look like Hitler.
Hallels: In all your sufferings, what do you think they teach you about God, sin, and yourself?
About God? This side of heaven...that he's wonderful and awful, a dream come true and a nightmare, a terrible houseguest, yet impossible to live without. Listen, I believe God is good. But I do not understand all that he is. People often say, "I have questions for God when I get to heaven." And I say, "Ask him now. He can handle it." We may not get the answers (not that answers are what we're really after anyway) but God has a way of reaching out to those of us who make our grievances TO him, rather than simply ABOUT him. There's a difference.
About sin? That if it's not redeemed, not just our personal sins, but the sin committed against us, it will render our lives as ineffective and unproductive. And none of us wants to live like that.
About myself? That while I've wanted a pristine childhood, a life that would've made me more like some of my friends (buttoned-up, an ease with life), I wouldn't trade my pain for how God has redeemed it, and used it to give me a calling in life. That really has been worth it all.
Hallels: How do you think this new book will help our readers?
I recently wrote a blog about God watching things happen to us and not intervening (see here: http://mattbayswriter.com/big-black-beautiful-god/). Someone left a comment that said this: "Thank you for being brave enough to admit your struggle because it gives the rest of us permission to admit it too." I'm not really trying to be brave as much as I'm trying to be honest. But that comment...that's what I hope my book will do for readers; that they will know they are not alone.
Knowing we have company is powerfully redemptive.
Hallels: For those of us who want to find out more about you and the new book, where can we go?
Check out my website: www.mattbayswriter.com to find information about the book and the ministry I've recently started. Also, you can go to my YouTube "Finding God In The Ruins Playlist" page at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5SX88akNtJ4K-vi5baw1DdFnS93boKTt which has short, teaching videos taken from the content of the book.
You can pre-order Matt's new book here: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-God-Ruins-Redeems-Pain/dp/0781413834