This one was written by Blake Nail.

The people of the Bible are often described as heroes. We see this in secular culture, where the characters of the “good” book are often mocked for “goody good” morals and ideals, which they supposedly manifest. We see this even in our churches. (At least from my limited experience in the land of heroes of Orange County, California.) Christians often think the Bible is full of these highly moral people who achieved a status that we should aim for. Obviously, this leaves churchgoers with two options: feeling broken and beat-down by the Law, or self-righteous and holier-than-thou. People begin to lie and hide their flaws in the hopes that they might appear to uphold the Law and be themselves heroes of the faith.

A quick read-through of any portion of the so-called “good” book will show anyone that the characters championed are quite different from heroes. Usually they are villains or at least going against the way of God’s plan to save the world. Yet we idolize and look up to these people. Liars, cheaters, whores, murderers, drunks, and manipulators—these are just a couple of ways to describe these characters. If anything, they are mirrors more than people we should look up to. They are more relatable than they are glorify-able, and they remind us of the grace we all need.

The world of rap is not free from this concept of hiding the reality of who someone really is. It’s common for rap artists to put up fronts, to pretend to be something they aren’t. Flexing is a cultural trend that most of us take part in. But we are slowly seeing vulnerability and transparency infiltrating this culture. With artists like Logic, Jaden Smith, Hopsin, Royce da 5’9” and many others, we see power in weakness.

Recently in an interview, Royce—who, in addition to being a solo artist, has also been a part of the rap group Slaughterhouse and partnered with Eminem in Bad Meets Evil—discussed his journey to sobriety and the grace-soaked words he heard from his friend Eminem when he admitted his addiction:

[Eminem] said, “Listen, I want you to know something. Where you are right now, at this very moment, you are at the strongest that you’ve ever been, ever. A lot of addicts, we take this feeling as weakness, admitting that you are powerless over something. You associate that with weakness because you’re powerless, but really, you admitting that now, you’re at your strongest, because it takes a strong person to admit that and realize that. And now you in the position to take the necessary steps to get yourself better, come home. Come home, I got you.”

This is true for all people, addict or not. When we see the lack of power we have over the Law, we are ready to receive the grace that’s been waiting the whole time. We can now come home. There is freedom when you realize that not only are you not a hero, but also, you don’t have to be one.

On Royce’s new album, The Book of Ryan, he realizes this truth and pours out the reality of his life as a witness to addiction and family abuse, carrying memories that haunt him and suicidal thoughts to accompany them. In the beginning of his album, he states, “This one’s for those who don’t know they pops not invincible yet.”

This is the theme of the whole album as he goes down his generational line starting with his father’s cocaine addiction. He then continues with his own alcohol abuse and the fears he has for his son. Other stories penned on this album include foolish decisions made in his youth and family holidays where the cops show up because of domestic abuse.

The Book of Ryan fits nicely with the stories in Scripture that continually bear witness to the mercy and grace poured out for those of us who don’t fit the mold of a hero. If you’re the type of person who looks in the mirror of Scripture and sees hope in the grace poured out for normal humans like us, you’ll find comfort in plugging in some headphones and turning with me to the beginning of The Book of Ryan.