With success comes pressure, and an awareness of imperfections, according to Cory Asbury, worship leader and writer of breakout anthem “Reckless Love.”
Following the incredible momentum of previous releases, Asbury told American Songwriter he needed to take time to rest, spend time with family, and to spend time with Jesus. Thus came his year long sabbatical in 2019. But in the midst of this dedicated year of reflection flowed some of the most deep felt songs he’s ever written, and in the shortest period of time.
“All of the sudden I just started getting song ideas and lyrics and melodies and I couldn’t shut it off. It felt like a water hose that someone had just flipped open and just poured for about two weeks,” Asbury explained.
Approximately eight of the tracks on Asbury’s latest record, titled “To Love a Fool,” which released July 31, came from that two-week period.
“It was a really cool experience in the middle of a year off to all the sudden feel like there was a download of songs and melodies,” Asbury said.
It was while grappling with the idea of how to see himself through God’s eyes, and honest deep reflection of his own life, the new record filled with songs that tackled wrestling through weaknesses and yet proclamations of hope was born.
“If you have a big song, or a little bit of success, I think some people think your life is perfect from now on. Especially for me with a song like Reckless Love, where it talks about the love of Gdd, people felt like ‘oh Cory must understand it perfectly and he must walk in sinless perfection now because he gets it right?’ That couldn’t be farther from the truth really,” Cory explained.
“Some of that year was just grappling with that idea that I’m still not perfect, I haven’t attained anything. Saying ‘ok, I wrote a great song, but I still haven’t arrived. My life isn’t perfect, it’s not the life you put up on a pedestal.”
And yet, Asbury explained, as he worked through that space, he had to relearn the truth that God does love him, with his faults in different areas of life, and additionally that he is still called to love himself in the midst of those flaws.
The title of the record, “To Love a Fool,” is actually a lyric from one of the songs on the record, “Nothing More Than You.” The lines denote that “The highest King of heaven chose to love a fool.”
“When I think of that line, I think how much the Father did, how much Jesus did to love us in our weakness, in our brokenness, in our sin even—habitual sin—he still absolutely adores us and calls us to come close to Him,” Asbury said. “And, it’s learning to love yourself in the middle of those flaws and problems. That’s the real task—can you see yourself through God’s eyes in that moment?”
Many of the songs, Asbury said, are stories and reflections on his experiences, his faults, things he feels both negatively and positively about, rather than an album filled with congregational worship songs.
One track, titled “Unraveling,” speaks to pressures people feel when seeking to make everyone happy. Asbury noted his goal in writing the song was to open an honest conversation about those expectations, and how God enters into them.
“I’m sure a lot of people feel that right now, those pressures to be everything to everyone and to fix it and the truth is you can’t,” Asbury said. “Sometimes you have to lean into that unraveling and allow it to happen and in that unraveling allow God to unravel you in those places.”
“In the middle of this, it’s given me a space to be really honest about everything in my life,”’ Asbury continued. “So many of us lie to ourselves and we medicate and we watch netflix and we drink and we smoke and we do all these things that put bandaids on the problems in our lives. I just got really fed up with doing that and said ‘if I’ve got this time afforded to me, where I can’t go out, I can’t do anything, I’m gonna really sit with myself and see what are the areas that I need to work on’.”
And it’s the realization of how much growth is needed, that really challenges both one’s perspective of self and of God, Asbury said.
“In the Scriptures, The Lord tells us to love one another as we love ourselves, and that concept actually doesn’t work very well for most of us because we don’t love ourselves very well,” Asbury emphasized. “If we’re honest we have a really low view of ourselves, we have a really low view of who we are and who God’s made us to be. Correcting that perception actually allows us to love each other and to appreciate and serve one another in a completely different capacity because the truth is, if you don’t love yourself very well you’re definitely not going to love other people that well.”
Seeing himself through God’s eyes allows him to have grace for himself, Asbury added. And he hopes that the lyrics and melodies of this new record will encourage listeners to do the same.