Five years ago (give or take a few days) a faithless and frankly clueless eighteen year old walked into a church building to watch Christians rehearse their ‘Jesus songs’ about a God he didn’t believe in. How things have changed.
Five years ago, I encountered a place where community comes before ability and where character trumps talent every time. This was a foreign concept to me. Feeling at all times like an outsider looking in wherever I went, it was even more foreign to feel the tsunami of genuine friendliness, selfless interest and love that I felt from the small collection of teenagers that I met that evening. I remember the following week meeting Zak and Stuart, the then GCSE students who did nothing but compliment my guitar playing all evening. The age gap felt pretty significant at the time. I never told them, but it meant more to me then they could possibly realise. Five years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a band that musically was nothing spectacular; I remember desperately trying to improve the ending of the songs by teaching a kid called Sam to do ‘monkey arms’. Whatever worked right? That obviously talented but scrappy young drummer from that rehearsal is now literally a professional musician. It’s amazing what can happen in five years!
Five years ago, I found a place that made me feel so welcome that the the prospect of doing anything other than coming back the next week was impossible. Even though I was the oldest one there (bar one person). It set me on a trajectory that would, in eight months, lead me to an encounter with God that would utterly transform me. A trajectory that would cause me to be so filled with passion for Jesus that I would leave my degree to volunteer for a church for two years. I remember the days creating and photocopying chord charts. That was it. Literally it. My role consisted of nothing more than the smallest of small tasks but I loved it because I got to spend my time around some of the most incredible people I’d ever met in order to give glory the most wonderful Saviour.
Over those years, I got to see people meet with Jesus in other nations. I had the honour of hearing people using the lyrics of songs that I’d written to meet with Him. My disdain for the younger youth turned into a passion to see them grow, and grow they did. The eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds I started working with grew up! They are now nearly adults and have grown in number from about eight to fifty. How things have changed! I’ve learnt more than I could imagine from phenomenal leaders, parents, teachers, preachers, mentors, worship leaders and youth leaders. Looking back at the eighteen year old who thought he knew so much about the world is laughable when I compare it to what I know now. I’m sure it will be the same again in another five years.
In five years, my beliefs, relationships, career path, knowledge and aspirations have been utterly transformed. I am not the same person that entered that building on that cold January day. I am older and wiser – though I am yet to earn the right to call myself old or wise. I am more excited than ever before about the life that lays ahead of me.
I have made some catastrophic decisions in the last five years. M-o-n-u-m-e-n-t-a-l-l-y terrible ones. I have been rocked by the harsh reality of life and I have not experienced unadulterated happiness. However, attending that rehearsal was the best decision I have ever made in my life for one reason. Not because I now get to work full-time for the church I started volunteering for. Not because I have far more responsibility now than simply making chord charts. Not because I feel belonging like never before and have closer friends than I have ever experienced. It’s because of Jesus. I know Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour – the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The Author of my salvation. What a privilege that is! Long may it continue!