Throughout his travels, award-winning Christian music singer and songwriter Matthew West has collected thousands of stories from around the world from people struggling to find their true identity and where they fit in this crazy world. Well known for communicating these stories through song, Matthew continues that storytelling theme in his book, Hello, My Name Is: Discover Your True Identity. After collecting so many stories from so many different people, Matthew learned an important truth – every person has a difficult journey to discover their true, God-given identity.
What made you want to try something different and write a book?"It all started with a phone call from my mom several years ago. I was a recent college grad who had just signed my first record deal. She called to tell me that she had been praying for me and that she felt the Lord was not only going to use my songs to tell the world about Jesus, but He would also have me write a book(s) to spread His name. I had a good laugh at the time as I reminded her of my grade point average in high school and college. However, fast forward to today and I’m celebrating the release this project and am thankful for the opportunity to share my stories and the testimonies of others in a different form."
How does songwriting compare to writing a book?"Writing a book was quite freeing because you did not to have to make everything rhyme all the time! At first, I thought writing a book would somehow be less of a creative outlet, maybe because music is such an emotional expression. But, I really loved the experience and I love that it gave me a chance to dig deeper than I can typically go through the message of a three-minute song."
Your book is named after your 2014 Billboard award-winning song. Can you tell us the inspiration behind both the song and book title?"I got this story from a young man named, Jordan, who shared with me about his battle with drug addiction. He was once an all-American athlete in college but got hooked on prescription pain medication after suffering an injury his sophomore season. Jordan went from the big man on campus to losing his scholarship and being kicked out of school. But at his rock bottom, Jordan began a journey of recovery that was just as much a journey of discovering his true identity in Christ. He told me that his whole life he had been trying to find his identity in his athletic skills, but when that was taken away from him, he didn’t know who he was anymore. That’s when he found the unwanted identity of addiction. God radically changed his life, and Jordan is now a husband, father, teacher and coach. He went from introducing himself as 'Hello, my name is Jordan and I’m a drug addict' to 'Hello, my name is Jordan and I’m a child of the one true king.'"
“Nametags” are a big theme of the book. How does one let go of their old “nametags?”"The Bible says we are all born broken. We are all born sinners in need of Christ. So we're born wounded in need of healing that only comes from Jesus and I think it's a daily process. What do you with your junk? Do you sweep it under the rug? Do you hide it away in the closet? Or do you bring it out into the light and place it into the hands of a healing Savior, who's in the business of junkyards? That's what it is. God is in the junkyard business. He reaches out into our junkyards even when we try to hide them and says, 'that's the part of your life I'm ready to heal. I can even heal the most wounded part of you.' When we take that step towards healing, that's when our nametags begin to take on a different look."
Did you learn anything when writing the book?"Absolutely! Writing this book was anything but easy, as it forced me to take a hard look at his my own life. I never want to write a book or song unless it's honest and authentic, and at times, that requires vulnerability, which is very much what I struggled with. I realized, while writing this book, I was tempted to do the very thing I was encouraging people not to do. Quit pretending, and ask how you can become the most authentic version of you and display that to the world. I was able to dig into my own identity and have God show me some areas of my life where maybe I had been believing a lie about myself. The Lord used this process to help me dig into Scripture more. That's a struggle for me, to get up every day and read my Bible with excitement and to read it like I'm reading it for the first time. When you're writing a book about identity, pouring through Scripture…. I started learning more about God's identity first. I felt like He was showing me, 'Don't think you're going to write a book about your identity or helping people find their identity without digging into my identity first. Let me show you who I am. Let's start there.'"
How would you advise someone who’s unsure on how to live an authentic life?"The key to taking on an authentic life is to realize that there's only one identity that never changes: "I am God's child. He loves me. He wants me to come to Him. He wants to spend time with me. He has plan, no matter how bad I've messed up." When we adopt that mindset, we are unshakable. Our foundation is unmovable as a child of the one true King. When we truly understand this, we are equipped to live a more authentic life and fight off the false identity that is always threatening to take over our lives. That is what the world needs to see. Not a perfect, inauthentic version of you who's acting like you have it all together, but someone who can say, “I'm far from perfect, I've made mistakes. But, I have found a perfect God who is working on me.'"
What do you hope readers will gain from this book?
"Writing this book has given me a chance to share even more of my own story, different name tags I have worn throughout my life, and how God has brought me different places. I myself am still a work in progress. I wanted to write from an authentic place in hopes that other people would be inspired to find an authentic place in themselves. We have to take a really good look at our life and maybe be willing to stop long enough to take inventory of our nametag and ask God if it's true. I hope readers will ask God to realign their identity just like He did for me when I was recovering from that vocal chord surgery."
The day is coming when all of the nametags we’ve accumulated, all the false identities we’ve owned, all the lies of the enemy we’ve had a hard time shaking – will fall to the ground once and for all as we stand before the Lord. None of it will matter anymore because our true names will be known by Him and spoken by Him.