Embrace the Humble Swagger


Let’s be frank, I’m writing this for one reason: to impress my husband who used to write music reviews for CCM magazine. My taste in tunes normally has a richer, more melodic, high art quality, deeper bass line than what he prefers to listen to, and we full-out agree on few artists. Right at the top of the exception list? Colony House.

Uncle Sleepy {as our supper club fondly calls him} and I bought ear plugs on the way to see them at the Saturn in Birmingham. This has nothing to do with how much we like Colony House and everything to do with how quickly I am approaching 40. {Uncle Sleepy is over 40 and quite gray, actually…but he doesn’t mind me saying so because we think it makes us look more like a Jane Austen power couple.} The show was late and I felt every bit of myself approaching 40. But once I had my hands in the air the ear plugs came out faster than you could say For the Sake of the Call.

Cause that’s the thing about a great band: they make you forget AND remember all at the same wonderfully confusing time.

Colony House is talented. It’s raw, deep, potentially genetic, unabashed, frets-in-the-air talent. There’s no shame and there need not be. Soli Deo Gloria. And you can see it.

There’s God-worship, and not just arms raised to the glass ceiling of mid-waist Presbyterianism. {You know the spot—just above the hip bone but below the belly button. It’s the line they teach in Communicants’ class.} But that’s not the kind of worship happening here—it’s the ugly beautiful kind where you say this hurts and why God and how are you so captivating and never let me take my eyes off you, Lord.

In the midst of his workout, drummer Will Chapman searches the crowd, his eyes asking, “Don’t you feel this?!” with the guttural pleading of a man who was saved from the edge by a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm. David would later say that as he watched Will’s catharsis, he didn’t want to let him down—he wanted to channel his audience-energy Will’s direction. It was like observing an artist paint and feeling the necessity of feedback, lest he snatch a whiff of self-consciousness, stop mid-stroke, and forever jip the world.

{Look, Will, there’s just one thing: the mom in me needs to say I am worried about all your head-banging. I know it seems far off but know what’s not cute at 40? Memory loss.}

Something about the lights and the live-ness helped accentuate what it is I didn’t realize I appreciated so much about their music: it’s the layers. The rumble of a manual transmission super close to your pedal foot and an accidental-on-purpose shifting with the beat of the music—the abrupt rise and fall of the gears that just so happens to be on beat with a rhythm you can’t put your finger on or explain why it would feel so right and oh look is that Roy Orbison in the seat next to you?

Frontman Caleb Chapman sings with the humble swagger of someone who was made for this.

That’s what I want for myself, isn’t it? And for my husband who loves and excels at his work…for my friends in their respective careers…for my pastor in his calling…for my kids as they ask the Lord what he has for them.

Maybe contentment and humble swagger are synonyms.

How do we encourage more believers to embrace their humble swagger and effectively engage culture? We need folks who can put on a tiger mask and bang the skin off some drums, and then go on Larry King and ask him what he thinks of Jesus… Or maybe just their version of this as they go about the business of being butchers or bakers or candlestick makers.

We need people who are raised to be in it and yet not of it.

We need grown-ups who can sing about hurt and loss and joy and how much you love your wife with such conviction that the world stops and takes notice.

We need people who know how to appropriately invite, show a touch of what’s true, and not mask the ugly, but point—point up with the confidence of Eddie Vedder knowing the election of a smiling God is staring back at you from the other end of that finger.

Can we show our kids how to grow up and do whatever they like for the glory of God? And can we show them how to embrace the humble swagger that comes with knowing that they were created to do just that?

Matt Redmond {the author, not the singer} gets me right in the gut in The God of the Mundane, as he refutes the lie that it’s the missionaries and the pastors {‘s wives} who are doing the real work of the Lord; the subtle belief that “unholy professions” are not callings at all, but amusements at best and a meal ticket at worst. Matt says, “There is a spirituality for ordinary people who live ordinary lives. Jesus did not die to change this so much as make it more so. We are not redeemed from the mundane. We are redeemed from the slavery of thinking our mundane life is not enough.”


Sometimes it takes me the good shake of a Colony House show to go, “Oh right, I can do what I like/enjoy/am good at AND glorify God at the same time.” And I can raise my kids with the humble swagger to do the same thing.

Well done, fellas, well done. Grammie here would book overnight childcare, drink a 9 pm caffeinated beverage, and drag Uncle Sleepy downtown for you any old time.

(You can check out Colony House on tour this fall, opening for Mutemath. Click here for cities, dates, and tickets.)

Gabriel Barletta

Holly Mackle writes and gardens in Birmingham, Alabama. She is wife to David and mama of two flower-sneaking bitties. She is the editor of engagingmotherhood.com, an author of the collaborative study for new moms, Engaging Motherhood: Heart Preparation for a Holy Calling (2016), and author of the family advent devotional, Little Hearts, Prepare Him Room (2016). Holly blogs life and tomatoes and diggingsuburbia and is the humorist for joegardener.com.