From hard rock stardom to an unlikely surrender
Canadian Lee Aaron has over two decades of international success in the music industry, starting in hard rock in the '80s and moving into jazz in the mid-'90s. She offers the following account of her dramatic spiritual transformation.
SO, there I was, being whisked back to the hotel in a white stretch limo. A familiar scenario. The boys in the band were loving the treatment (as usual), pouring drinks of Crown Royal, blasting the sound system, making manly jokes and digging the rock star treatment . . . until the hangover tomorrow at least. What the heck, pour me one too.
We had shared the stage that night with Joan Jett, Def Leppard and Jerry Lee Lewis, playing to 25,000 at the 1999 Minnedosa Festival. Glancing out the window it occurred to me that we were headed in the wrong direction; away from the hotel.
I knocked on the tinted window that separates driver from passenger. "Do you know where you're going?" I yelled.
Funny . . . he doesn't look like a driver. Is he drinking? My inquiry, unfortunately, had been received as an invite to the back seat party once the separation window was opened. No, he isn't really a limo driver, he tells us, but he is a certified Elvis impersonator . . . won some contest in Vegas. Also, he's just been fired from the local radio station for hate slander against homosexuals and feels misunderstood. He drives the limo part time. Full time redneck. Hilarious. The boys think he's hysterical. I pull open the drawer under my seat to find a map. A variety of porn magazines spill out. No map. No problem. Our new 'buddy' handles this road monstrosity like a sports car, executing a hasty U turn and blindly heads in the opposite direction. Does this guy even have a license? This is ridiculous.
Am I the only one who thinks this is insane and a bit . . . surreal? Is this the life we were aspiring to? An insular world where we are self-inflated gods and morality is as subjective as a Baskin-Robbins flavour. The ultimate rock and roll lifestyle. Something felt strangely wrong to me all of a sudden. I quit drinking hard liquor that night. My reality barometer had finally peaked too far into the red.
Not fun any more. The next morning I picked up the paper and there I was, gracing the cover of the entertainment section. Full page, in an over-the-shoulder J-Lo style pose, the focal point being my booty in slinky silver pants. The headline read 'Aaron gets Cheeky!' A flood of emotion. Is this all my 16 years in the music industry meant? I felt sick. Over the years I had allowed myself to be marketed as a poster girl. Hey, the industry loves that and I wanted so desperately to be liked and accepted by the world. I was easily manipulated. But today, this was hitting hard. How did my life have meaning? All this so-called success meant nothing. Zero. The bottom fell out of my stomach. An ugly epiphany.
I flew home later that day. How did my life have meaning? My marriage was a disaster. Alcohol played centre stage there, and I, in a futile attempt to cope, had fallen into a pattern of popping pain killers daily.
At 37, I'd given up on the idea of ever having children, and had resigned myself to -- or, perhaps romanticized -- the idea that I would be a cool, childless old lady who painted, drank wine spritzers, recorded and toured occasionally like Marianne Faithful, and lived with a pack of nasty little lap dogs for love and protection. I even fooled myself into thinking that this was as good as life gets. What a dumb-ass I was.
I'd abandoned the whole 'God of the Bible' idea years ago. Growing up, my dad took all that 'Head of the Family' stuff quite literally. He could be loving, but he also ruled with an iron fist (that went through a wall or two when he drank), and I made an unconscious vow that if God was modelled there, I want nothing to do with him. I had no awareness of a forgiving, gracious, loving God.
I had, however, spent the last few years exploring every spiritual thing I could get my hungry little hands on. Mostly New Age; confusing, contradictory bits of God-ish this and that -- nothing that had any lasting or truly powerful impact on my life. Obviously.
When my marriage finally combusted, I drove away with my truck full of stuff, devastated, overcome with crippling grief and failure. I prayed silently "Jesus, please save me." I'm not even sure why. I was shattered and had to pray something. Anything . . . oh . . . and I had met a Christian musician on my last tour and I knew that Jesus had something to do with it.
I ended up staying good friends with that musician. We talked a lot. He gave me a copy of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, and really helped to alter my perception of 'Christians.' He wasn't my usual type, but I liked that we never ran out of things to talk about. He respected me and my points of view even if they didn't reflect his. We argued a lot about faith. It bothered him, by the time we were officially dating, that we weren't on the same page spiritually. I countered by telling him he was a hypocrite for talking the talk and not attending church. Always the devil's advocate. Somehow I inadvertently trapped myself into attending church with him . . . one of my smarter dumb-ass moves.
So we found an unpretentious church (the pastor wore jeans and the music was actually good) and proceeded to attend every Sunday . . . and every Sunday I felt like crying. I almost bailed.
A few months later, my latest album was released overseas and I left for a six-week European tour. A showcase situation, it wasn't my regular crew, but once again, I found myself on the road immersed in an environment where drinking, carousing and fulfilling one's pleasures were the order of each day. I occupied my days off cycling, sightseeing and reading books I'd brought. Did I mention that I prided myself on the fact that I was 'spiritual' -- me and my other artsy, intellectual friends -- exploring many avenues of faith? I had just finished a book by the Dalai Lama and had moved on to Phillip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace. My soul was rocked by the concept of a forgiving, father-like God. You mean someone like me could get into heaven? Secretly, I felt I had made a disaster of my life so far and nothing I attempted to change seemed to work, despite my so-called "spiritual evolution."
By mid-tour I had run out of anything English to read. Bummer. Swiss TV. Three's Company and Hogan's Heroes in German. I opened up my bedside drawer to find stationery. Instead I found a Bible -- in English. God is crafty, I tell you. I began reading. And reading. Like a starving vagrant at a banquet, I couldn't stop. I went to sleep and awoke at 6am (not my usual rising time) to keep reading. I felt a strong presence lurking in the shadows of my room. I sensed something big was going to happen and it scared the crap out of me.
The following day, I decided to head into town, check my emails, and peruse the sites. I received one email. From my ex-husband. Two years later. Lambasting me for everything I'd done to mess up our marriage. My first reaction was one of icy defensiveness. How dare he. He's the alcoholic! But he was right. About pretty much everything. I played my part in steering the train wreck. In fact, near the end I jumped train with all my baggage because I was terrified to stick around to witness the carnage. Tears flooded down my face in a public place. I felt as though I'd been hit by a truck. I wasn't perfect. Ouch, how the truth hurts. I stumbled out of the internet cafi and wandered, in a haze, for what seemed like several hours, until I found myself standing at the doors to a little, old stone building. God put on his steel-toed boots and gave me a good kick through the door.
Was I in a church? I sat at a pew and continued to weep. I asked for forgiveness. I asked for help. I surrendered. Totally. I told God that I was screwed without him and I knew it.
I married my unlikely Christian man in early 2003 and feel so blessed to have been given a new shot at happiness. We work with challenged teens, have an active church life and are expecting our first baby in June of this year. God is an immensely cool guy.
Music is still a huge part of my life, but no longer the part that I define myself by. I contemplated leaving the industry for a while; but God started flooding me with a bunch of new creative ideas -- and hey, he's the boss.
Lee Aaron currently lives in the B.C.'s Lower Mainland, and will be launching her latest album, Beautiful Things, at a performance at The Media Club in Vancouver, April 28 at 8pm. $10 from the sale of each CD bought at the show will go towards Rwanda With Love -- a non-profit mission for aid to genocide orphans.