There are certain times in life that we were never meant to experience alone. There are pains and losses the human heart can endure only in the presence of something or someone else, walking alongside us, carrying us when our feet fail, assuring our heart that it doesn’t have to muster the strength of the next beat on its own. This is the wasteland. These are the ruins…and it is here that the music of The Ruins resonates.
But, it’s here too that the music of The Ruins strays from other such cleverly-written, emotive-alt/pop anthems. These songs meet the listener wherever they are—in despair or disillusion—but in despair, they refuse to linger. Reflecting the souls of the creative minds behind the music, The Ruins songs are arresting, comforting, challenging, and provocative.
Comprised of Debra Black and Victor Gonzalez, The Ruins is a duo of dynamic passion, musical excellence and unparalleled creativity. Perhaps what distinguishes them most; however, is their unrelenting desire and penchant for empathy. The first and foremost goal in life and in music is to meet others wherever they may be—without judgment or pretense.
“I’ve always been very empathetic,” says Black. “I have this heart and desire to see and speak truth and for others to see and understand truth. I want to see with His eyes.” It’s this vantage point from which the duo’s EP was born.
Before there was music, there was a journey to the birthplace of the group. For several years, Black had been leading worship, writing worship songs, and had even put out a worship album. During this time, she and Gonzalez developed a friendship and a positive creative, collaborative relationship. So when she began questioning her own musical direction, naturally, her thoughts turned to him.
“I had released a worship album a year and a half ago and had led worship in the church for years, but I kept feeling a tug in my heart to go the pop route. I wanted to sing what I love to hear,” she says. “It was a really big and difficult decision, but it was crazy how God would just reach down and give me little nudges from heaven. I heard a message on fear and then my mom called and shared a devotional about what fear does to you and I realized I had been hesitating going the pop route because it was unknown to me. I knew worship. Worship is safe for me. But, God was calling me to do new things.”
As Debra came to terms with her own reticence and opened her heart to new possibilities, it became clear that this was not a journey she was to take on her own. “Victor and I had been talking about writing possibilities, but was about to leave the country for a three month missions trip in a closed country,” she recalls. “As he left, though, I just had the sense that God was aligning us for music. I prayed that if He wanted us to do music He would have to create an opportunity for something fresh.”
Halfway around the world, opportunity began knocking. While Debra was laying bare her heart before God, halfway around the world, Gonzalez was doing the same. “During my missions trip, at one point we went to see these ancient ruins,” he shares. “We climbed to the top of this precipice and could see these ruins for miles in every directions. I was so struck that people were just flocking to these broken down, decaying remains, seeing them as beautiful. At one point, these buildings were created for a specific purpose, but over time had been destroyed. Now, while they are crumbling and dying, they represent something beautiful and appealing. It opened my eyes to the reality of God in my own life in a way unlike I had experienced before. I have tons of issues and baggage, but God looks down on me and doesn’t see ugliness. He doesn’t see something ruined. He sees something—someone—redeemed.”
When he returned home, they started writing. The resultant EP resonates with their soul-stirring revelation of grace and redemption; their razor-sharp pop sensibilities and the generosity of two artists who know how to ebb and flow, give and take, while balancing reality with hope. The debut single, Deliverance is a pop-alternative gem that captures the essence of the duo—sonically and philosophically.
“We want music to be the catalyst for our journey and story,” says Victor. “Deliverance allowed for us to do this. It has a ton of imagery that paints a picture for the listener of being trapped by depression, anxiety, addiction…and realizing that the time has come to break out, stand up, walk out, run out, come out, and find life again.”
Like brushstrokes on a canvas, each subsequent song on the EP adds nuance and depth. The ruins in life…it’s here where we meet our need. It’s here where we grow faith. It’s here where we encounter deliverance.
In December 2014 my mom passed away. Since then, I’ve learned that grieving is not a two-day process and it comes in waves and in seasons. I know that I can never get my mom back and I know that I will never stop missing her. Grief; however is definitely something that lingers on and when I don’t process through my grief or deal with it, it can definitely bring me to some dark places. I believe that one day I will be delivered from my grief. Until that day comes I will choose to fight and not let my grief hold me down or paralyze me.
When we wrote Deliverance we originally were going to call it Break Out. The more we talked about the song and related it to our lives, the more we realized that anyone could break away from something or break out. For me, there are days I can break away from my grief, but as time passes I can easily end right back up at grief’s doorstep. Deliverance though had such a deeper meaning. To actually be delivered from something is to be free from it. The word deliverance literally means to be rescued or set free. Our reasoning for choosing the word deliverance was to empower and encourage people to be bold and honest, to stand up, fight, and not let anything or anyone hold you down.
As time passes we grow, we change and we heal. We have to choose to fight for our Deliverance because as hard as people try to fight for us they can’t accept our freedom for us. Everyone was made with a purpose and everyone has baggage. The moment we stand up for ourselves and own our baggage realizing that we are broken and desperate, that’s the moment we can find hope and receive freedom. From there, our purpose is so much clearer and we can become these beautiful ruins for the world to see. I believe I can stand as monument for people to witness deliverance from grief just as others can stand as witnesses from their deliverance.
So often we get bogged down by life; certain outside factors that affect our personhood. It’s normal. Life comes with “the good, the bad and the ugly.” What I wasn’t prepared for was the depression.
As a little girl, I would see those commercials with the cloud looming over the person’s head walking around trying to live their life. I had no idea that one of those clouds would loom over my head, one day.
I have had the most amazing life. Some incredible parents, and a brother. The ideal family situation. From the outside looking in, all was great. In fact, I was functioning fine. I would deal with the normal highs and lows; the norms that come with joys and disappointments. It wasn’t until a few years ago, that the low, just seemed to get lower, and lower, heavier and heavier, until I couldn’t recognize myself anymore. I would look in the mirror and say “Where did you go, because I don’t know who YOU are.” I couldn’t catch my breath, or come up for air. The things that used to bring me so much happiness, made me want to run and hide.
I have always loved people, people fueled me, but I found myself being reclusive in my house for days at a time. The thought of having to be any place else, would just bring me to a state of panic and anxiety. What was happening? I also looked around and found myself alone. The friends I thought I had, didn’t follow me into the state that had become my familiar. Everything seemed dark and hopeless and I knew I needed a rescuer. I begged God. I pleaded with Him to just make it go away. I did everything in my power to try and help myself. I started to recognize this wasn’t going away pretending like it didn’t exist and knew at the same time I had a part to play in my battle.
I started going to counseling, seeing a doctor who actually gave me a diagnosis, realizing I actually did have severe depression, based upon a hormonal imbalance. I started take B Vitamins, sitting in the sun, running, and now have started to talk about it by telling the people I love. This has actually helped because I don’t feel so alone anymore; knowing that people actually know. For some reason I thought I had to hide it, only recognizing now, that this is part of the trap.
My rescuer is found in the Lord. But at the same time, my part is to get up, and FIGHT. I have a responsibility to take the first step toward the “Deliverance” that is offered. It starts with me. It starts with showing up with your sword and your shield and stepping toward the battle line. I had to break out, even though at times it was excruciating and seemed tortuous to even move.
I still struggle. Some days are better than others. But, I now have the tools I need to win. I know who my “Deliverer” is, and He is the ultimate Savior.
Whatever you might need to be rescued from, know that it starts with you admitting you need to be rescued. You might have to shout, plead, and beg, but you have to move in order to be able to receive the freedom we all have been offered. This freedom, this true deliverance is found through the hope of the world, and His name is Jesus.
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