A look into the life of Delirious' Martin Smith
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
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Martin Smith is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter from England. He was the front man for the Christian rock and worship band Delirious? for seventeen years. Delirious? released numerous records, with some of their songs hitting the top twenty UK charts. In their career, Delirious? played many major conferences, festivals, events, and crusades. They won numerous Dove Awards, were nominated for a Grammy Award, and produced songs such as “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” and “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” Smith collaborated with the other members of Delirious? for the book I Could Sing of Your Love Forever and with other artists to complete The Art of Compassion book and the CompassionArt CD and DVD.
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Martin Smith, one of the men behind the modern Christian worship movement, challenges readers in his autobiography, Delirious: My Life, Mission, and Reflections on the Global Worship Movement. Martin Smith fell in love with God early in his life. By his teen years, he was captivated by songs that expressed true intimacy with God. As he grew, he married a pastor’s daughter and became involved in his church’s outreach events. He began playing his own songs with a band at the events. Then, in 1995, Smith was involved in a near-fatal car accident. During his weeks of recovery, he decided to become a full-time musician. His new career quickly took off and he became the lead singer for the band Delirious?. Touring with groups such as Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Matchbox Twenty, and Switchfoot, Smith’s life became a whirlwind of balancing work and family.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I never really knew what people meant when they said that their hearts had been broken. It had always seemed to me that people were exaggerating, that the description was all a bit too over the top. But on January 10, 2007, I found out exactly what it feels like to have your heart so comprehensively messed with that you know beyond all doubt, the rest of your life will be different as a result.
For me, though, it wasn’t that my heart broke. It was still beating—and faster than ever. It felt more like my heart had been ripped out. My head, on the other hand—now that was well and truly broken. Thoughts flew out like water from a broken pipe, and nothing made sense anymore.
I was a mess.
I sat in a hotel, waiting in the room for someone to take us to dinner. Nothing new there. But nothing could ever be the same. After what I’d seen that afternoon, I knew that if my world as Martin Smith carried on without any change, I’d be making the biggest mistake of my life.
We’d been in India for a day or so. In Hyderabad the band and I played to a crowd made up of four hundred thousand people, quite a few cows, and a whole lot of duct tape holding the PA system together.
Delirious? had toured India before, and we’d seen poverty around the world: We’d visited slums in Mexico and seen it from car windows on numerous drives to and from airports, but in India we always felt the greatest impact. Knowing that even our suitcases—not including the stuff inside them—cost more than a year’s wages for some of these people was enough to wipe the smiles off our faces.
Mumbai was different. The sounds, smells, and general chaos overwhelmed the senses, and somehow the children’s begging felt more intense and disturbing there than anywhere else. Every time we stopped at a red light and children approached the airtight windows of our cars, I wanted to empty my wallet and hand the contents over to them. It would have made the kids’ pimps happy, I suppose, and
I knew it was a bad idea.
So perhaps I should have known that I’d find it emotionally charged when we visited Prem Kiran, a project supported by Joyce Meyer Ministries that provides the children of prostitutes with food, education, and support. I should have known that their smiles and effervescent singing would lift my smile higher than the clouds, and I should have guessed that when we fed the children their lunch I would be fighting back tears.
But nothing could have prepared me for Farin.
You pronounce her name fa-REEN. For some reason she couldn’t stop looking at me all the time that she and the rest of the children sang.
I suppose I’m a little bit used to the “strangeness” of people looking at me, but this was different. At the same time that she was looking, God’s Spirit prodded me deep inside, taking my guts and wringing them out.
Once they finished singing and eating lunch, we spoke with the pastor. He told us that this project worked with more than seventy children, helping their mothers and families as well. He shared that Farin’s mum—like so many of the others there—worked as a prostitute.
I felt the air leak from my lungs.
Pastor Umale went on talking. This was a red-light district, and the chances were good that, yes, Farin would end up working as a prostitute just like her mother. Seeing as she was eleven years old then, that day might not be far off.
I looked back at Farin. She was so much like my eldest daughter, Elle: same age, same height, same way of moving, same big eyes, and a similar smile. But Elle’s future is one of possibilities and peace. Farin’s is a parent’s worst nightmare that never ends.
Pastor Umale invited us to walk across the street and visit the homes of some of the children and their mothers. We trod over the open sewer that ran between the brick and tin buildings; we wandered inside when invited and stood around looking like fools. There we were, a rock band that shouted about our faith in Jesus, standing in one room where the whole of life was played out: sleeping, feeding, playing, and working.
What did our faith mean in that place? We could take to the stage in front of hundreds of thousands, but what did our faith mean as we stood next to a bed on which a prostitute sold herself for a few rupees, and beneath which her children hid, in fear and silence, sometimes even drugged so that they would sleep? What did our faith mean, and what impact could it make? Were we out of our depth, or was that just the sort of place—and were those just the sort of people—that Jesus would have been found amongst, dealing in compassion, transformation, and restoration?
Our trip ended, and we got back on the bus. But it wasn’t enough to drive off and forget about it. It wasn’t enough for life to go on as before.
Back in the hotel all I know for sure is this: I am dying inside. Something has happened and I cannot find peace. All I can think of is Farin and the horrors that lie ahead unless some minor miracle takes place.
What would I do if she were mine?
The question makes me stop. What do I mean if she were mine? I realise the truth in that moment: There is no if in this scenario—I feel like I am Farin’s father and I am as responsible for her future as
I am for my own daughter’s.
That day we spent as a band in Mumbai changed things for me, though perhaps not in the way that I first thought it would. As I grabbed a few snatched phone conversations with my wife over the coming days, all I could tell her was that something amazing, disturbing, and beautiful had happened. I tried to tell her about Farin, but the words came out all wrong.
It wasn’t until the band and I got home that I had any sort of plan in place and the time and words to convey it to Anna.
“We need to adopt her,” I said. “We need to bring her back here to live with us, to be a part of our family.”
Anna was very good with me. She knows me well enough to let me talk and get the ideas out before those become actual plans, but she also knew that something different was going on. This wasn’t just
another case of Martin getting excited by someone he met at the end of a long tour.
But as I thought about it more and more, I grew even more convinced. We needed to adopt this girl. And the more I thought about it, the more I missed her. It was as if my heart—so blatantly ripped out from my chest upon seeing Farin for the first time—had now been put back but was wired up all wrong. I was constantly aware of the fact that she was still back there, living in a slum, surrounded by poverty and danger. This little girl was at risk, and I was doing nothing about it, other than looking at the photo of her that I’d placed on my piano while failing to put these feelings into song.
Eventually Anna laid it all out for me. My kids—the five we had then, sharing the house I’d been floating around in ever since I’d returned from India—needed me, but I wasn’t there. Physically I might have been in the room, but that was about it. I was drifting away, and it was starting to become a problem.
I wondered if I was having a breakdown. I struggled to concentrate and found it hard to connect with my loved ones, and all I could think about was this girl I’d only ever met once. What was going on?
Within a couple of weeks the air began to clear. The songs started to come—one about Farin herself and the other about her mother and her friends—and the adoption forms that I had ordered remained unopened on our kitchen table. Bit by bit I was starting to return to my body, to reconnect with the family, to come back to “normal,” whatever that meant. Being in a band means that life is a strange dance. You travel a lot and develop a life made up of stages, studios, and interviews that is far removed from the realities of family life. You have to work hard to smooth the transition between these two parts of life.
But coming back from India the landing was even bumpier.
Part of me liked that idea of everything getting back to how it had been. Part of me thought it was the most frightening thing that could ever happen.
Six weeks after meeting Farin, I found out that Farin’s mother had changed her mind. At the start she had been happy for Farin to leave India, for us to adopt her and bring her to England with us. Then she changed her mind. She couldn’t let Farin go.
How could I blame her? Honestly, I felt partly relieved, partly upset and sad. But then, finally, something like progress presented itself to Anna and me: If we can’t adopt Farin, then let’s take care of her and the other children in her neighbourhood. The pastor told me what the project in India cost to run, and we decided to contribute: We wanted to help with the care and education of all seventy children. After all, if we couldn’t bring Farin home, we could certainly help care for her along with all of her friends.
That is not the end of the story.
And it certainly isn’t the beginning either.
The day I met Farin was one of those points in life when so many threads come together. It was a junction box, with so many different experiences and influences colliding, and so many outcomes blossoming as a result. And part of the reason I wanted to write this book was to share a little of that bigger story.
But before we jump in, I need to do some confessing. Starting with a story like meeting Farin can sound impressive. That line about having my heart ripped out and my head broken makes it sound like I’m halfway towards being a saint. Don’t get me wrong—the feelings were absolutely genuine, but those were rare. On so many of the other trips our band made to projects that worked amongst the poorest people, life often went back to normal after a while.
I know lots of people who have experienced the same thing. Maybe you have too. After seeing the firsthand reality of what life is really like for so many of our neighbours here on the planet, you feel stirred up. You try your best, you try to respond to the compassion stirring within you. Most artists and creative people are by nature sensitive to suffering, and we often want to jump in and help, without thinking about whether there’s a lifeline. And even if you’re not a creative type, having faith in Christ more than sets us in line with compassion as a way of life.
Well, that’s the theory. Or, at least, that’s the start. What comes after the outpouring of emotion or the awkward feeling when you look in your wallet, that’s where I think we make the hard choices.
For those of us living in the West, when we come face-to-face with poverty it can be a problem. Especially when a trip feels more like a holiday romance than a blinding light on the road to Damascus.
For example, we fly into India, stay in a nice hotel, go visit these projects, go back to the hotel, have a shower, and eat a nice meal in a restaurant, and then, if we’re lucky, we get an upgrade on the flight home. In our culture, where selfishness is at worst a character quirk and at best a sign of inner strength, there is a real disconnect between head and heart, between passion and lifestyle. So we can be engaged in an issue, we can use our voices as our currency, and we can give cash. But the greatest tragedy is that we can come home from the short-term mission trip and get straight back into our everyday life and forget.
Not that there’s anything wrong with everyday life. For me that might range from driving one of the kids to a dance lesson today and piano lessons tomorrow, to taking out the rubbish bins; from getting the car fixed, to thinking about where we want to go on holiday next summer. Everyday life for me might be planning what I’m going to be doing this time next year or thinking about how to release these songs within me for others to hear. You can forget the pain, and you can forget the faces. That breathless feeling you get when you’re surrounded by life-and-death poverty can evaporate like the vapour trail left by the jet as you fly home.
I found this all to be true after my early trips to India. I didn’t like the way I, like the Israelites, could so quickly forget about what God had done just days before. It might not have been a miracle like the parting of the Red Sea, but facing children whose lives were on course for abuse, neglect, and horror stirred my compassion in powerful—but sadly, kind of temporary—ways.
Eventually I found what I thought was a perfect remedy for my wandering heart. Taking photos, and lots of them. All around my house now are pictures of many of the children—God’s children—through whom I have glimpsed more of life than I had known. As I sit at the piano or eat breakfast, all I have to do is look up to be reminded of their faces and to reconnect with their stories.
The truth is, though, that while the photos are a neat little device that I came up with, God had a better plan for helping me hold on to the sense of purpose that rose up after those days of seeing poverty up close. And that plan was Farin.
In one of those wonderful, God-only ways that showed how well my Father in heaven knows me, God broke into my heart and left it in pieces. Through Farin God made it all personal. And once that happened, there was no way I could ignore His call.
I’m not trying to sound like a saint again, but it’s true that one day in Mumbai back in January 2007 made the rest of my life different. Of course I still have one foot in my everyday life—the world in which I find myself getting more excited about the World Cup than about rescuing kids from sex trafficking. There are many, many times when I feel as though I just don’t know how to do this thing called compassion when there’s so much geography in the way. All those old temptations to go back to normal. But Anna and I have come so far down a new track that I’m not so sure I remember what “normal” looks like. I don’t think we can ever really go back to life being our own again.
So here we are, at the start of this book. Read it, and you’ll see that I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve tried to be honest with you throughout—honest about the good as well as the bad.
But, thanks to the grace of God, this book is about more than just my failings. It’s about an amazing journey that I’ve been on. I’ve seen miracles, heard armies of Christians cry out in faith, and seen what happens when ordinary men and women decide to live their faith out loud.
And I hope that this book helps you unleash more of the same.
©2011 Cook Communications Ministries. Delirious by Martin Smith. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.