Russ Taff: Reflections on Grace and Our Expectations

Personal Growth

Over the Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to chill out a bit and watch some shows. Obviously, there are tons of options to watch out there – from movies and DIY shows to mini-series. While scrolling, I came across a documentary on Russ Taff, Russ Taff: I Still Believe. Taff is one of my all-time favorite Christian artists along with Michael W. Smith, Sweet Comfort Band/Bryan Duncan, and Petra (yes, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s). I enjoyed groups like DeGarmo and Key, Whiteheart and PFR, then later on to DC Talk and MercyMe. I remember Christian bands and artists though being rare in my early years with groups like the Imperials and Dallas Holm at the forefront. All I can say is, the volume of artists today owe their success in some way to those on the early trail – those like Russ Taff.

Painful Turn

The documentary on Taff was a such a nostalgic walk down memory lane for me. There was a fascinating trove of background information on Taff, in particular his early path to The Imperials. But, the retrospective took a painful, yet ultimately redemptive, turn when it dove in to a too common theme for many artists and those in the spotlight: Drive, success, pressure, purpose, disillusion, escape/addiction and its effects.

Unreasonable Expectations

Too common in this type of situation would be many of us who may have an automatic response: judgemental thoughts about that person’s failure, or their inability to cope. But as I watched the story unfold, I became convicted. Could it be that I was part of the pressure, the churn? What about our expectations – expecting too much – performance, perfection, personality, availability? It almost seems that those in the spotlight are treated like a bottle rocket. We light the fuse on these talented folks, expecting superhuman feats and perfection to watch them be consumed, literally.

Escape and Addiction

For the person in the performance crucible, the trap and allure of addiction is real. Yet there is Hope. One of my friends, Lance Lang, launched Hope Is Alive (HIA) out of his own battle and victory. He discovered some huge gaps in what those in the war on addiction need – a place to land and rebuild – and he and HIA are directly providing for this need! There is a structure for grace and mercy all in the surroundings of support and encouragement. I thank the Lord for HIA.

Another brother in Christ, Seth Haines, is also a great resource of help and direction. His journey in brokenness and redemption moved him to write Coming Clean, a heartfelt and transparent story of his own journey. His words of wisdom on both sides of his experience would help anyone – be that to avoid a perilous trail or find the way back to the right trail.

Healthy Perspectives

As I continue to reflect and ponder on this documentary, I wonder what could be some simple, healthy perspectives?

First, what about our expectations? What do we expect of people? Is it unrealistic? Or will we work to give people a break – on performance and expectations. There is a certain irony in the fact that I find myself as a consumer of this very documentary on Taff. Another issue to wrestle is when people crash, mess up/sin (and we do) what will we do? Rubberneck and condemn, or forgive and lend aid?

The Bible says:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Second, to those of you out there who give their time and lives in performance, thank you. I pray the Lord gives you His peace and rest.

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