Your True Identity:
An Interview with Songwriter
by Jonathan Petersen, Bible
struggling to find your true identity? Have you been damaged by
somebody';s hurtful words? What does the Bible say about your
identity not being found within, but through Jesus Christ?
West has written four books to date: "Give This Christmas
Away," "The Story Of Your Life, Forgiveness," and "Today
Is Day One" and his newest just released, "Hello, My Name
Is: Discover Your True Identity."
Bible Gateway interviewed Matthew about his book, "Hello, My Name Is:
Discover Your True Identity" (Worthy Publishing, 2017).
In your new book, you discuss the
importance of finding personal identity in God, rather than in
the things of this world. What have you discovered about your
own identity through the writing of "Hello, My Name Is?"
Matthew: From the start, I told myself that if I hoped to
write a book that helped people to take a good look at some of
the names that have been written on their nametags, I would need
to do the same. I had to write this book from a place of
authenticity, even vulnerability, being willing to let God show
me areas of my life that have been incorrectly shaped by false
identities I've allowed to hang around for too long.
In the book, I talk about some of those names that were revealed to me -
names like "Pretender, Control Freak, Insecure," and the list
goes on. I truly felt like, 'if this book is helping me, then
it's going to help someone else.'
I hope people feel that honesty
in these pages and are freed up to take the same honest look at
their lives, then ask God to show them how His truth about us
differs from those false identities we've been handed throughout
David's prayer, "Search me, God, and know my heart..." (Psalm
139:23). I prayed that a lot while writing this book. "God,
search my heart " my life, reveal to me any areas of my life
that you want me to see, any identities you want to show me, and
help me dare to believe that your grace has erased them once and
"Hello My Name" Is is also the
name of a song you wrote and recorded several years ago.
Talk about what inspired the song and how the song inspired you
to write this book.
Matthew: I've noticed that most authors who are pastors or
speakers write books whose message is derived from a sermon
series they did at their church. I guess my process is similar
except that instead of a sermon, the genesis of the idea is
found in the form of a three-minute song. And many of my songs
have been inspired by the true stories and testimonies of people
who've written to me from all over the world. I've collected
over 40,000 stories and counting.
One of those stories is about Jordan, who wrote to me and shared his
powerful story of addiction. The first sentence read, "Hello, my
name is Jordan and I'm a drug addict." He went on to tell me
that he grew up a good preacher's kid. He then went on to
college and became an All-American athlete, but after suffering
a season-ending injury, he felt lost and found a new, unwanted
identity thanks to the prescription pain medication he had been
given. After two failed drug tests, Jordan was kicked out of
school. As a last resort, he agreed to enter into Teen
Challenge, a Christian drug recovery program for an entire year.
He shared with me how difficult that time was but that God radically
changed his life by showing him some things about where he'd
been finding his identity. He told me that he realized that he's
not defined by his successes OR his failures, but he is who God
says he is.
Today, Jordan is a husband, father, high school coach, and an all around
awesome guy whom I call a friend. The last sentence of his
letter said, "Hello, my name is Jordan and I am a child of the
one true king."
In what ways does the Bible
talk about a person's identity?
Matthew: I love 1 John 3:1: "See what great love the Father
has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!"
To be called a child of God - a child of the "one true king," as Jordan
put it - there is no greater distinction. I love the final
sentence of that Scripture with that emphatic exclamation mark.
What a powerful assurance. Right here, right now, in this very
moment, no matter how good or bad you feel about yourself,
you're a beloved child of God. Throughout Scripture, God is
conveying this message. He made you, he loves you, He pursues
you, He's not done with you, and He's called you His child.
The subtitle of your book is
Discover Your True Identity. What are people's "false identity"
and how can they determine their true identity?
Matthew: A false identity is any lie that contradicts our
God-given identities through Scripture. These false identities
can be created by ourselves because of sin in our lives, choices
made, or wrong turns taken and the regret, guilt, and shame that
follows. Other false identities are handed to us by outside
sources, maybe a damaging word spoken to us by someone or a
childhood of abuse.
However, not all false identities are negative on the surface, such as
successful, attractive, wealthy, athletic, or talented. But even
those identities can become false when we place too much of our
weight on them. Jordan's identity was "All-American" until he
broke his ankle and his season was over. Then, he didn't know
who he was anymore and started spinning out of control.
I've started working out with a trainer. He always talks about the
importance of developing my "core." Any fitness expert will tell
you that a strong core is the start to a strong and healthy
body. The same is true with our identities. It's about
strengthening our core, which requires digging past all of the
surface identities that crowd our nametags and remembering that
at the deepest level we are God's masterpiece. The stronger our
knowledge of the core of who we are, the better we'll be able to
deflect the old names and false identities that try to own us.
What’s your advice to those
people living under the burden of a false identity right now?
Matthew: Read this book! Ha! Seriously, my advice can only
come from a place of what's helping me. And what helped me is
what also guided me in the writing of "Hello, My Name Is:"...Scripture.
One of the things I love about the Bible is that it's
page-by-page proof that God is not just a "broad strokes" kind
of creator; God is in the details. So much so that we're told
nothing is hidden from him. He sees everything; He's the
beginning and the end. There's no greater authority on your life
than the one who gave you your life.
Much of this book, contrary to what one might think when they see the
title, is not a search within but an encouragement to begin the
journey of discovering who you really are by first discovering
who you belong to and what your creator has to say about you. I
truly believe that if someone is believing a lie about who they
are right now, that God's desire for you is to be set free from
that once and for all.
Ask him to show you where that false identity is coming from. Ask him to
show you how differently he sees you than how you view yourself.
Throughout Hello, My Name Is, you
from people you've met during your years
touring as a musician.
What story impacted you the most?
Matthew: There's no substitute for the power of a personal
story. I love what happens when I get to hand my platform over
to a guy like Jordan. The true stories of God redeeming a broken
life shoot like arrows straight to our hearts and remind us that
God wants to do the same life changing work in our lives.
I love how one story can impact another story, causing a ripple effect of
change if we let it. Rob's story is featured in the book for
that very reason. Rob actually got saved at one of my concerts
and decided to seek help for his drug addiction as a result of
hearing "Hello My Name Is" and witnessing the story of
Jordan. Today Rob has been sober for over two years. And the
ripple effect continues.
Why do you believe this message
about identity is so important for people to hear today?
Matthew: When I saw how much the message of the song
resonated with people I began to realize we're all on the same
journey of discovering who we are. Why else would the bookstores
be filled with self-help books?
That's why I wanted to write this book; as a powerful reminder that when
it comes to getting to the core of who we are, we simply can't
help ourselves. Left to our own devices, we'll wander down a
wide road filled with people slapping false identities on us at
every turn. I've walked that road, and I don't want to anymore.
We've got social media now where we can even create an identity for
ourselves and show the world an inauthentic highlight reel
version of who we are. But I'm drawn to REAL, not a highlight
reel. The world doesn't need to see another plastic Christian
pretending they've got it all together. The world needs to see
more Jordans; people who are willing to stand up and say, I'm
far from perfect, but 'm loved by a perfect God.
What do you hope people walk away
after reading "Hello, My Name Is?"
Matthew: I walked away with a renewed passion for Scripture
and I was powerfully reminded that God's Word really is a lamp
to guide my feet along this journey of discovering who I am. I
hope people will soak in the Scripture that I highlight
throughout page after page of this book.
live acoustic performance of
Personal Letter From Four-Time GRAMMY Nominee
I'm so excited to announce that my new record "All In," is
going to release this September!
For the past
few records, I've embarked on a unique journey of storytelling that
really flipped my creative process upside down and led to some of
the most memorable musical moments of my life. After collecting
thousands of true stories from around the world, an incredible
conversation has taken place between me and the people out there
listening to my music.
stories have served as the inspiration for many of the songs I've
written. In Nashville, they say, "It all starts with a song." And I
like to add to that by saying: Every song starts with a story.
I began 2017 by spending several weeks in a cabin that Alan
Jackson built. It resides on some land owned by some friends of
mine, and they were kind enough to let me camp out. I was a little
worried, though, because every morning when I walked through the
door of the cabin, I had the melody of "way down yonder on the
Chattahoochee" stuck in my head.
I was able to find new melodies in the making of this record. No
I surprised myself in that cabin by how personal my lyrics were
coming out. I scared myself a bit, too. I guess it was just time.
Time to take some inventory of my own story; where I've been, where
I am now, and where I'm going.
With "All In," I'm now trusting you with more of my story than
I've ever shared before.
"The Sound of a Life Changing," took me back to Assembly Hall
Arena in Champaign, Illinois, attending a Steven Curtis Chapman
concert and knowing that night that someday I would be up there on
stage. I called Steven to join me at the cabin to write the song
with me. How's that for a full circle moment?
Songs like "Something Greater," came out of me while just
thinking about the journey that's led me to where I am and how God
has always had a much bigger plan than I ever dreamed.
"And I thought I moved to Nashville just to sign a record deal..." As the
old saying goes, "Man plans, God laughs."
One of the most personal songs for me on this record is called,
"The Beautiful Things We Miss." I wrote it thinking about what
it means for me to be All In as a husband and a father. A
conversation I had once with Rev. Billy Graham still haunts
me. I asked him if he had any regrets. He told me his biggest regret
is that he spent so much time traveling away from his family. I
don't want to look back someday and find "everything that really
mattered was right in front of me this whole time."
One of my
personal favorite parts of the record isn't even my own singing.
It's my daughter, Lulu's. She came into the studio and recorded
vocals on a special song that was inspired by my wife, Emily. Just
wait until you hear Lulu sing, "Anyone can see it's true. I'm
becoming me because of you."
Some of the songs on this record reference very specific stories of
people I've come in contact with over the past couple of years.
Eleven-year-old Brooke's battle with cancer inspired the song
"Never Ever Give Up."
"Power Love Sound Mind" is inspired by Bryan, a soldier who wrote to
me about his struggle with PTSD, and Raven, who's struggling to
figure out how to move on after her mom passed away.
"Dream Again" is inspired by the men and women who are going
through drug and alcohol recovery -who I invite to my concerts as my
John 10:10 is an anchor verse for this record and for my life; Jesus
tells us that he came to give us "life to the full." I don't know
about you, but I want to taste and see what "life to the full"
really is before it's all said and done. I want to reach the end of
the race with no regrets, no what-ifs. I want to stand before God,
not as somebody who achieved perfection, but as someone who
passionately pursued the God who passionately pursues me. I'm going
"I believe that one day I will see your kingdom come and I wanna hear you
say, "Welcome home my child, well done." -MW
The All In Tour
is set to embark on his headlining ALL IN Tour this fall.
Visiting over 30 cities nationwide, the tour will feature special
guest Dove Award-winner Jordan Feliz and will introduce
singer/songwriter Leanna Crawford.
"I absolutely love writing songs, and I love watching those songs
come to life in the recording studio," West says. "But it's getting
on the bus, hopping on stage in city after city and carrying that
music to a live audience night after night that completes the
That's why I do this tour or any other - in hopes that people who
are hurting will find a much-needed musical reminder that God loves
changing lives. We're going 'ALL IN' with that message this
fall and I can't wait!"
The tour will kick-off September 21 in Houston, hitting Des Moines,
Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; San Antonio, Texas; and Lakeland, Florida,
among numerous markets, before concluding in late November.
"We are working hard to make this tour a special one," West adds.
"From the time folks walk in the door to the time they leave, I want
fans to be immersed in and experience ALL IN."
In addition to West's ALL IN experience, fans will hear some
of his much-anticipated new music, including collaborations with his
"I'm also excited to tour with my friend Jordan Feliz," West
continues. "He and I wrote a song together for my new record and a
friendship was forged. In addition, I've discovered an amazingly
talented newcomer, Leanna Crawford. She's going to join me onstage
each night and will no doubt blow people away."