Wynonna Judd: Behind the Fame

Fame is a weak support to lean on

A friend came up to me at Bible study and said she had just attended an event that included a concert with Wynonna Judd. My friend sent me the link to one of the country singer’s songs, “These Are the Things That I Lean On,” and encouraged me to listen to the lyrics.

The first line of the song is “Psalm 23 when I’m scared to death.”

Wynonna Judd has been in the spotlight since the 1980s, when she and her mom became famous as the country duo The Judds. Interestingly, Judd isn’t their real last name.

When Wynonna was born, her last name was Ciminella. Wynonna never knew her father. And, Wynonna, her mom, Naomi, and her sister, Ashley, had rough lives in their early years. In fact, at one point, they didn’t even have indoor plumbing.

Wynonna Judd’s fame brought significant change to her life. Her quick temper and outbursts were the subject of tabloid news as well as her three marriages. She would be the first to say that a significant part of her famous reputation was as the edgy, often reckless daughter of Naomi Judd.

Fast-forward to her life today and you understand the journey that has her singing songs like “These Are the Things That I Lean On.”

Last June, her daughter, Grace, was sentenced to eight years in prison for violating her probation. She pleaded guilty to possession, manufacturing, and distribution of methamphetamine. Grace is expected to remain in prison until 2025.

I found myself hoping, then praying, that during her time in prison, Grace will come to embrace the gift that she was named for.

God loves Wynonna Ciminella

Our culture is fame-obsessed, but it’s important for our Christian witness that we look past fame to the genuine person behind the persona. Everyone deserves the chance to be known for who they are, not who they appear to be. That’s the way God views people.

Choosing to know and appreciate a person for who they genuinely are is a gift we have been given by God and a gift we should share with others. It’s difficult for people to accept that they are loved, even with all their flaws, but that is a unique message Christians can—and should—offer.

That’s the message that Wynonna “Ciminella” needed and received. That’s the gift offered by the first line of her song, “Psalm 23 when I’m scared to death.”

When Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites,” he was using the ancient word for actors on a stage, men behind a mask. I think Jesus could probably call out many of us today using that same metaphor. The witness we choose to offer is often a much better performance than our genuine lives.

Jesus spoke to that tendency when he told the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27–28).

If we were famous, what would the tabloids report about our lives?

Each of us should offer grace to others because we know we need grace ourselves. We don’t want to be a Pharisee because, according to Jesus, they were lousy witnesses in their culture. Pharisees kept people from knowing God because they kept people from understanding that everyone needs, and has been offered, grace.

We always have a shepherd

Wynonna sings about leaning on Psalm 23. That Psalm begins, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Notice it doesn’t say, “The Lord is our shepherd.”

The decision to follow God is individual. Every person you know has either chosen God as their shepherd, or they are without his guiding presence.

The metaphor of a “good shepherd” is found throughout Scripture to describe the work of both God and Jesus in our lives. That description requires another. If God is a shepherd, that makes us sheep. But Jesus offered these encouraging words to his disciples saying, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14–15).

God genuinely and completely knows who we are. So does Jesus. And our Creator thought we were worth the sacrifice we reverence and hear about each Easter season. How is that kind of love possible?

Easter means we always have a shepherd who will redeem our failures and bring us back to a place of safety.

Wynonna’s “new song”

My friend told me about the testimony that Wynonna offered the crowd before she sang “These Are the Things That I Lean On.” I imagine it was similar to her concert testimony I found online. I hope you will take the time to watch that video as well. I believe it is a clip of Wynonna Judd Ciminella, the person behind the fame.

I hope each of us will use this blog post and Wynonna’s songs to examine our own lives.

Easter is coming soon. Whom will we meet that needs to understand and accept that Easter was necessary because of who we genuinely are as human beings?

But Easter was our amazing gift from God because he has always loved his sheep, genuinely.

I hope that all of us will sing “a new song” as we consider Easter and share the truth of this holy season with others.