Behind the Mystery

In her second book, former Flyleaf vocalist turned chart-topping solo artist Lacey Sturm opens up about her intimate struggles with relationships, divorce and an affair. Writer Danielle Martin goes behind-the-pages of the book to find out how Sturm achieved peace, balance and fulfillment in the sharing her story.

Photo by Brooke Long

In February of this year, Lacey Sturm made music history when she became the first female solo artist to top Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums chart. She’s been there before; she viewed the world from that seat in 2009 when, as the vocalist for Flyleaf, the band landed in the same spot for their sophomore release Momento Mori. The accolades keep coming for Sturm, a woman whose career has proven to be one of repeat success. She has extended that streak; October 4 saw the release of her second book, The Mystery: Finding True Love in a World of Broken Lovers.

Entering into what is is shaping up to be an autobiographical legacy, The Mystery tells a story of restoration, strength, purity, and abundant growth in personal relationships. Sturm courageously opens up about how she found herself entrenched in an emotional affair, and how she was subsequently able to escape the black hole it created in her life. The result is an extraordinarily inspiring account of maturation that leaves readers with encouragement and words of loving caution against the unhealthy idealism of love in today’s culture.

Undoubtedly, the common thread in all of Sturm’s art — regardless of the medium — is the evidence of a deeply rooted faith in God. In music and in word, she reveals how the uncommon relationship she pursued with Him transformed her life. When I talk to her about The Mystery, it is unsurprising to hear her voice teem with passion; she lights up when she gets to share about the subject she so treasures. Her fervor is palpable, enamored with this moment in her life, grateful to have gotten here — she never expected to have a career outside of raising her boys after her departure from Flyleaf, ostensibly to raise her children. With an uncommon grace and eloquence that comes from earnestness, she gushes about the loves of her life: God, her husband and their children, her personal heroes, and this newfound career of hers fronting a solo effort. Through the high highs and the low lows, though — all discussed with raw honesty in her book — she remains unfazed: Her love is a byproduct of a steadfast focus on God. How that all works isn’t up to her; she knows that. She knows it’s just part of the mystery.

DM: This book had such an impact on me. I saw so much of what I’ve been through in you, especially in the first few chapters. I think what a lot of people who are just coming of age, the choices they make — a lot of us experience the things you described, but we don’t talk about it.
LS: I was just thinking about the reasons why we don’t talk about it. Even me putting out a book — I was so nervous to do it. I feel so nervous to hear what people think about it, because one of the things that makes a relationship so special and so unique as a part of an experience in life is that so much of it is based on our personal choices, our personal experience. And there’s not a lot of blanket right and wrong. To me, there’s a lot of freedom in it that makes each person different, and the right thing for each person is so unique to their experience. My concern with having The Mystery out there is that people will look at it and go, “Oh, my relationship needs to look like this.”

Right. You don’t want it to be a cookie cutter.
Yeah, because it’s so important that they value and celebrate their own journey and how they walk it out.

Was it cathartic for you to write this book, or was it terrifying to know that your personal life is going to be public?
(Laughs) Well, the writing is fine. It’s the releasing….

For me, when I hit “Send” (in the email) to my agent — the first time I sent it to anybody — immediately I was like, “Why are you doing that?!” Right after that happened, I had this weird moment where I was unsure of myself. Within the hour I get this telephone call from a friend of mine. They were telling me about somebody — somebody that we love and respect and look up to as sort of a hero in a lot of ways in that they had a great marriage and they have beautiful kids — they were telling me about this person being in an affair and choosing to leave their family, asking for prayer for their family. I even reached out to the person and said, “I understand that this affair happened, but we can walk through this and you can be restored. There can be joy at the end of this tunnel.” The person was like, “But I found my soulmate…” and I was like, “It’s just a choice that somebody has to make and a perspective that they see through.”

“I feel so nervous to hear what people think about it, because one of the things that makes a relationship so special is that so much of it is based on our personal choices, our personal experience.”

When I heard this within the hour of sending the book, already going, “Why am I telling people this story?” and hearing this about someone I totally respect and honor and love their family — I just cried. I was like, God, we see everything through this lens that’s so short-sided. We don’t consider the eternal consequences, the eternal perspective of what our choices are. Even then, I wasn’t condemning the person, it just felt like I understood how that feels to make that choice and leave everything behind. To jump blindly into something that is so destructive to so many people and feel like it’s so the right thing for you.

I was just like, “Okay. This is the right thing. I’ll let this go out there; people are dealing with this.”

So many people experience that, and I think it destroys more lives than not. But the openness in what you share may even prevent people from making the decision to enter an affair.
One of the things I thought that was really important — it was actually taken out of the book because of the editing process — but there was a whole chapter on forgiveness and how important it is for our own self-health and future progression and growing in our souls. We need forgiveness; we need to give it and we need to receive it. There was this one paragraph where it said, “No matter what goes on in your life, you can always make this choice to turn and hand it over to God and say, ‘Can you make some beauty out of this mess? Because without You coming and redeeming this, it feels like it’s in vain. It feels like just destruction.'” He’s able to do that with anything at any point. He can make beauty come from it if we just hand it over and say, “I was trying to be God and I wasn’t very good at it, so can you help?”

In the book, you describe the things that you learned about your relationship with God and how they progressed over time as you had mentors and different people who were a positive influence in your life. But I also liked what you learned on your own. I loved the chapter about choosing to live single and pursuing that time.
Yeah, I still think about that time. My heart burns when I think about it because it was so special. It’s so important, — especially when my husband and I are arguing or where we’re having a hard time — to remember that time of being single. It makes me so happy that I can just turn my heart that way and know what it feels like and go buy myself flowers (laughs).

Lacey Sturm Photo by Brooke Long

It’s just so easy because I had a time when I knew how to put every bit of my joy in that place of trusting God and delighting in the gifts around me and feeling the romance of life itself. So, I can kind of do that when my husband’s not Jesus, when he’s not being that movie-star romancer. Once I do that, like I say in the book, it totally makes me so alluring to him — and the other way around. When I’m being really needy and impossible to please, he’s like, “I don’t think I accept that you’re impossible because I’m just going to be happy with the things around me. I’m going to turn my heart toward being alive on my own and full of life on my own, apart from having to make you happy.” When he does that, I just start longing for him in a healthier way, like, “You are so healthy right now!”

You also talk about how God doesn’t have marriage intended for every person, and, if you talk to him and really listen, maybe that’s what he’s going to say to you. Have you met people who had that journey?
Yes! I met this amazing woman that’s a missionary in Thailand. She was sexually abused growing up, and she works with girls who come out of being trafficked and abused. She comes home to raise money to go back and do that. She has the most amazing joy and confidence in who she is, and she knows that God’s given her a single life and to be poured out that way. She is such a hero to me.

Also, Misty Edwards is another one, she’s a worship leader at International House of Prayer. She wears a ring and is married to God. She just devoted her life to that.

“I remember someone saying one time how beautiful it is that God believes in us so much that He would trust us with His silence at times.”

I also know a couple older women called to single lives. There is one who is an amazing woman. She does a weekly visit to the strip clubs in her area and gives the strippers goodies like really fancy perfume and just asks them, “Is there anything I can pray for you for?” She’s just very active and beautiful, and she’s a single woman. I stayed with her after my divorce for a little while, and she opened her home up and was like, “My home is the Lord’s. You can stay here.” So, I’ve met people that have been like that and it’s really inspiring but it’s not common! (laughs)

There’s a section in the book that discusses seasons of silence with God and how you can sometimes feel really abandoned at that time. But, if you look at it correctly, you can really grow. I thought that was fascinating because I’ve gone through that; I think a lot of people do, but they don’t realize that that’s where they are.
I remember someone saying one time how beautiful it is that God believes in us so much that He would trust us with His silence at times. I think about that, too, with my own children when I watch them struggling through something I’ve told them, and they just want to figure it out in their own way. I just watch them because I want them to learn on their own, and I trust them. I trust that they’re going to be wise, and they’re going to be brave, they’re going to conquer and overcome and learn. They get so happy when they turn back and look at me when they’ve figured it out, you know?

Lacey Sturm Photo by Brooke Long

Absolutely. In the section on setting relationship boundaries, you covered everything from acquaintances to parents. I felt like that was so healthy.
I remember making this booklet, and I wrote on the front of it “Family Tree,” and I wrote down these people so I could see for myself when I needed to pursue and when I should step away, when I needed to be cautious and when I could get vulnerable. I was always the same with everybody. I was all over the map with my emotions and being hurt and being used and feeling ignored and all these things. It was like, “You know what? Let’s just figure this out.” After that, I just felt like things helped become so much more peaceful, and I could love more freely within those boundaries.

I heard an interview recently where you alluded to working on a third book, is that happening right now?
Yes. It’s about stewarding your gifts. I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to be called.

I think a lot of people have gifts that they either ignore — like, “Oh, I’m not good enough for that” — or they don’t take advantage of the natural gifts they’ve been given.
I think my husband is SO good… If I didn’t marry Josh, I don’t think I would have put a book out, ever. There’s things he noticed in me because he believes in me. He can see the things I couldn’t see. And I trusted him. I was like, “OK, I’ll try…” If he didn’t care about making sure I fulfilled everything I am meant to fulfill, then I would be so happy just being a stay-at-home mom — which, I still get to do that to some extent. I say that as my son hands me a purple flower. (To her son, “Thank you, I love it!”)

I wouldn’t have known that there was more for me outside of raising my boys. This is one of the things I write about in the next book: It’s out of having my priorities in the right place that the overflow comes in having something else to share. When I’m fully connected with the Lord in the right way, then my marriage is flourishing. And when my marriage is flourishing, then my kids feel more secure. And when my family is in that special place, I can’t stop the songs that come and the ideas to share and the things that I have to offer others. But when I turn to those things that I have to offer — only the songs in and of themselves — the reservoir dries out pretty quick. It’s a matter of turning your heart in the right direction for the reservoir to be there, and then being able to keep the streams flowing from there — in the right way with the right balance.

Lacey Sturm was posted on October 25, 2016 for HM Magazine and authored by .