Broken But Grateful
The Story of an Artist’s Pain and God’s Providence
“Aaron, wait! Don’t jump!”
It was the last thing Aaron “Canon” McCain heard before he leaped forty feet off a bridge in December, 2014. He woke up in a haze, flat on his stomach, pressed against the concrete. He couldn’t feel his legs. His jaw was numb.
“I tasted blood and dirt in my mouth, and it felt like some of my teeth were missing,” Aaron recalls. “At that moment, I couldn’t remember how I got to where I was. My teeth felt jagged, chipped — I saw blood and started to cry for help. I saw more blood spilling from my face than I ever thought possible. A blurry face overhead assured me in a panicked tone, ‘Don’t move. Stay awake. An ambulance is coming.’”
Earlier that evening, Aaron had finished a concert in Clarksville, Tennessee, and was headed in his tour bus to a restaurant for a post-show meal. Suddenly, his road manager, Brandon, slowed down and turned on his hazard lights. There was an accident ahead. Brandon stopped. They got out of his truck and ran towards the wreckage. Approaching the mangled vehicles cautiously, Aaron heaved when he discovered two unknown men lying nearly unconscious inside a truck that had flipped upside down in the middle of the interstate.
“Brandon urgently shattered the glass of the driver’s window. I smashed the backseat window. I reached my hand through the window to see if the driver and passenger could reach me. Brandon yelled to the driver, ‘Hey man — don’t turn on the car!’ The truck was covered in gasoline.”
Suddenly, the dazed driver attempted to start the engine, and Aaron ran for cover, fearing that the truck would explode. He ran towards what he thought was a median, but because he was unfamiliar with the area, and it was dark, he instead jumped in a ravine. His life would never be the same.
“When I finally understood what was taking place, I had shattered my left ankle, fractured my left leg, and broken my right jaw. I realized I was not only physically scarred, but also mentally and emotionally damaged. I was later diagnosed with Clinical Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had night terrors that caused me to involuntarily kick and scream in the middle of the night.”
Pain in the Plan of God
Aaron believes in the sovereignty of God, but he didn’t immediately find comfort there. The sovereignty of God only confused and frustrated him more. How could a good God let something like this happen? How could this be meant for good?
“The pain and frustration placed upon my wife and me were a part of God’s plan. I understood that my new physical limitations were a part of God’s will. Knowing the implications of having new difficulties affecting my marriage, social life, and career, it took many months to find comfort. It destroyed my emotional security.”
The accident also had profound implications on Aaron as an artist. Before the accident, his concert performances involved acrobatics that left the crowd in awe. And having been a full-time artist, he now found himself unable to provide financially for his new bride. The accident ended his stream of income, and the financial burden was placed on his wife.
“During this time, along with income saved from prior concerts and newlywed gift cards, my wife had to take on our household finances on her own. This made our new marriage very difficult. Men by nature were designed to lead, protect, provide, and comfort. I couldn’t do any of those things. I felt helpless and hopeless.
“As a new husband, those moments broke my spirit in the worst ways. It was hard not to place my identity in my talents and tasks as a husband. It was so difficult to feel accepted in my weakness. I often fell into the lies of trusting in my works — that God and my wife would only love and embrace me if I performed well as a husband.”
Yet Aaron found hope. He discovered that the Spirit was calling him to embrace his weakness and trust in the strength of God. God was teaching him and his wife dependence.
“I felt God was crushing our pride and growing in my wife and me a sense of true dependency toward God. We could not just make it through a trial without God; we would have never been able to make it through a life in marriage without him. This taught us that God alone can sustain and build us up in the many ways we needed it.
“God would not have been glorified in a marriage of self-dependence. It would have, at best, bred self-righteousness in our hearts, which would have cannibalized us. Through this injury, God wanted us to slow down and get this right. By his grace, we are still learning.”
Soon Aaron did find comfort in God’s sovereignty. It gave him hope in his darkest hours. Because God was good and in control, even in the midst of suffering, Aaron could trust that God was with him. He understood that no matter how difficult life became, the best was yet to come.
“God has preordained trials of hardship, in order that we would gain a gift greater than the trial itself. If we would last, making it to the end, we would be glorified in Christ with Christ forever. These minor setbacks are nothing less than a hair of a distraction in light of the greater gain eternally. It is because of God’s sovereignty I am allowed to taste the goodness of his grace when all seems lost. My jaw is only temporary. My feet and legs will one day be replaced. My pain and suffering will be traded for an everlasting joy that only God can supply.
“I was angry and frustrated with God, and honestly still struggle today to fight for my joy in him. However, time to heal and meditation on the Bible have led me to believe that not all good things are easily seen with our eyes, but with the sobering of our hearts. You cannot simply understand the weight of God’s power and control until all has been taken from you for his glory. What a terrifying thing it is to fall into the hands of a sovereign God (Hebrews 10:31), yet what a comfort there is to know, by faith, that his sovereign ruling is for our good because of his unfailing love for his people.”
Today, Aaron is a changed man. Before the accident, he was more concerned with finding security in the approval of others than pleasing Jesus. He read the Bible for knowledge, but didn’t live a life that realized the implications of what he knew. Now he’s a man without fear — except fear of God.
“I have literally no fear besides the reverence I have for the Lord now. None. No man on this earth has a heaven to place me in, nor a hell to throw me in. Once your life is threatened with walking the thin line of life and death, nothing shakes you but what God chooses to do.
“I’m no longer concerned with quieting the truth for likes and approval. You either love me for my authenticity or hate me for being real. I’m more afraid of what my silence to the world would communicate about God, rather than fearing that people misunderstand the truth of God.”
Aaron is back at work. When I spoke to his wife, Ritz McCain, she reported that he’s “at 70% according to our last doc visit. [He] still has to build back up his strength and mobility in his ankle and leg.”
He’s producing an album and recently released a new single titled Grateful. In the interview, he told me he’s come to grips with many things in his life. He realizes that apart from Christ, he’s nothing. He finds his worth and identity in the one who is able to do anything but fail. He believes he’s the man in Christ he is today because of the accident, and he’s grateful that though Satan meant it for evil, God meant it for good.
“I am the man I am today because I have been broken down to my weakest state. God doesn’t use what he cannot break (Proverbs 29:1), and there is no one too firm he cannot shake.”
Desiring God partnered with Reflection Music Group to premier Canon’s new video Grateful and share his story of pain and providence. You can purchase his new single Grateful on iTunes. You can also watch his story on Youtube.
Aaron “Canon” McCain (@getthecanon) is a Christian rap artist from Chicago, Illinois. After touring with Lecrae, Canon signed with Reflection Music Group and recorded his first EP entitled Loose Canon, which was released in 2012. In 2014, Canon experienced his first taste of success by reaching the Billboard 200 charts with the release of Loose Canon Volume 2.