By Jason Hall
I grew up playing sports. My academic calendar revolved around football, basketball, baseball, and golf. It’s how I tracked the seasons. But the system of high school athletics soured my enjoyment of competing on organized teams. By the time I got to be a senior in high school, I was so ready to start a new life — my life. For years, deep down, I had wanted to play music. I started hanging out with people who didn’t play sports but loved a certain kind of music. Underground music.
So on the day I graduated, I bought my first bass guitar. I taught myself the basics and formed a band with my friends. We were not deep in talent, but we made up for it in sheer determination, grit, and love for what we were creating together. We started spending a lot of time in the local music scene, and we met people wanting to give us a leg up in our quest to make an impact on the Dallas musical landscape. After playing for a while in our small town, we recorded some songs in hopes of getting them into the hands of the right people. After some really exciting developments in our quest, I remember thinking to myself, “We are really doing this. Most people never get the chance. Everything we have been working toward is coming up. It’s so close. It’s all so close.”
I had no idea that it was all coming to an end so soon.
No one did.
At the apex of my stint as an underground artist, I wasn’t looking for a change. However, an unforeseen sea change was coming to one Jason Hall.
It happened over a period of a couple of months the spring and summer of 1997. One of my coworkers at the supermarket caused me (without saying a word, I might add) to slowly realize there was something missing deep inside of me. This was somewhat strange because my life was pretty exciting at the time. Seemingly a lot more exciting than the life of my coworker. I had everything a 20-year-old could ask for — I was performing live, writing songs (we were singing words I wrote!), I had great friends, and we had respect in our music community. But I found myself wanting to spend more time with this common dude who exuded a peace that I couldn’t register. He was also 20 years old. But no one else in my life had what he had. Funny because he was just an average guy. I knew he was a Christian because he carried a small pocket Bible in his pocket, but he never tried to outright preach to me. Probably good, since I had no reference point in that world, and I was used to people barking the fire and brimstone gospel at me from afar while in Deep Ellum. At the time, that did nothing but make me more defiant.
Unintentionally, I found myself interested in what my coworker friend was all about. It was a mystery why I was drawn to his lifestyle. I grew up in a system of dead religion, and it played no practical role in our lives at all. In fact, I did not know a single verse in the entire Bible.
One day, we were in the break room together at work, and these words just came tumbling out of my mouth — seriously, these words had never run through my mind before. All of a sudden, I heard myself say to this guy, “Garon, can you tell me about the Bible some time?” I think I was more shocked than he was. I could not believe I had just said that.
Some weeks later, he invited me to his church youth group. It was an hour away in a hole-in-the-wall town called Vernon. I have no idea why I said yes. No way was I doing that under normal circumstances. At the time, my band was gaining a tremendous amount of momentum. We were getting ready to open a big show, and I wasn’t looking for anything like this at all. In fact, I was going full speed in the other direction and seemingly very happy doing it. But under the surface, my inward parts were longing for something real.
Anyways, we got to this group in Vernon and, of course, I knew no one. I felt out of sorts. But later on, someone began to speak about God in a way that was personal, not distant. I was hearing that God in Christ Jesus was actually the Desire of the nations. In other words, people were seeking all sorts of things, but what they were actually looking for was for Christ Himself to come in and fill up the deepest part of their being. We were made to be filled with Him. All of a sudden, deep within me, a zip file of thoughts started unzipping…
I realized deep within, he was right. This living Person was real. He was not a historical figure or a cartoon character or a curse word for when I was angry. He was the One who came as the hand, to fill me as the glove. He was the One I had been looking for my entire life. He had an eternal purpose, and I was being called into that purpose.
The speaker invited anyone to come forward to pray and and receive Him right then. Immediately I found myself climbing over people who were kneeling to get up to the front to pray. I have no idea what happened, but when we were done, I knew someone came inside. The God of glory came in, and my whole vessel was full of His shining. I was very sober, but so full of joy. I had never known such deep joy in all my life. I was so released, and I intrinsically knew, without a doubt, that not only was God real in the universe, but that I was filled with someone real. Finally.
I was so unburdened, you wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t know that so many things were hanging on me. All of a sudden, the weight of all of my sins was lifted off of me. I was light. I was forgiven. I didn’t know how or why, but I knew deep down that I was saved. I really didn’t know what that meant either. I knew nothing, but I did know that Christ really was the Desire that every man was seeking. And I found it! Whoa…
I think my friend was pleasantly surprised because I was such a stubborn case. But I was… I was subdued by the love of God. How could He love me? How could He forgive me? I was so awful!
All of a sudden, the next day, I had a new desire. I had a real hunger and drive to read the Bible. Lol. I had never had any thought or notion of doing that before. No one told me I should read the Bible. I had received no counsel from anyone after what had happened the night before. I received my first Bible from Garon and proceeded to tear through the New Testament. The more I read, the more I underlined. The more I underlined, the more the light shined in me and my joy increased. I didn’t understand much, but I was learning who this Person was. The Word was living, and through His Word, He was speaking.
Everything changed that night. It took a while to figure out what had happened and what it all meant, but it changed my life forever.
Of course, that was only the beginning.
Meet the authorJason Hall serves on staff with U of I Christians on Campus. He loves coffee and Kansas City barbeque. Follow him on Twitter.