Telling the truth

I was reading excerpts from a Ryan Adams interview about his upcoming album and came across this gem: “How do I make a real distinct record where anybody listens to it and says, ‘That’s the truth from beginning to end.’ So it’s like exercise. It sucks in the beginning. But then you get into it.”

I love that.

Telling the truth is difficult work. It requires more than just being factual, though that is part of it. It requires a depth of understanding that dives beneath the surface of things.

When Andrew Peterson sings of marriage as “dancing in the minefields,” he sings truth. Similarly, when Josh Garrels also sings of marriage as “heaven’s knife,” he also sings truth. Marriage is both beautifully glorious and achingly difficult. It can’t be otherwise when one sinner sits next to and observes another sinner and yet does so with the eyes of love. And both singer-songwriters capture that in their music.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” But he was being flippant when he said those words. He had already made the decision to sacrifice truth for expediency and he was tossing out a philosopher’s query to disguise his cowardice.

But the question remains: What is truth?

As the three singers mentioned above and poets, theologians, visual artists, novelists, and other artists have pointed to over the years, truth is both general and specific in nature.

It is Andrew Peterson’s years of “dancing in the minefields” with his wife in their very specific relationship that have enabled him to write songs that a general audience can relate to. Even though I know almost nothing about their marital relationship, his words ring true with mine.

It’s the willingness to be laid bare to the truth personally that leads to the honesty, the authenticity that’s at the core of our best truth-tellers.

There’s nothing abstract or detached here. For truth to be true, it must be lived and livable.

But there’s nothing exhibitionist in truth. It’s not just me baring my soul, getting naked in front of the world. For even when we strip down or delve deep, we’re not always truthful. We have an amazing facility with self-deception. And our feelings are liars as often as truth-tellers.

So, real truth-tellers reality-check themselves. They don’t just look inside; they look outside. This may be as simple as a poet talking with friends over coffee or a preacher reading the Bible. Emotions and experiences, as real as they may feel, must be grounded in a reality beyond the individual in order to be truly true.

When I am willing to look more deeply than the surface of my life (and I’m not always willing to do this), I come to the beginning of truth. But it’s only when I step back outside of myself again that the truth becomes complete. Or to put it in the words of Ryan Adams: “That’s the truth from beginning to end.”