“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44 (ESV)
We sat down on the dock and my granddad was silent. The sun was hot and there was not any wind. It was midsummer and my granddad, my little brother, and I had gone on a fishing excursion at one of the ponds in Coppell. Eight-year-old Garrett Chastain was rather impatient. I was waiting for my granddad to instruct me on how to string, bait, and cast a fishing line. Still, he said nothing. The whole purpose for us being there was for my granddad to teach my little brother and me how to fish. I didn’t quite know what we were waiting for.
My granddad leaned over and said, “Did either of you bring a fishing rod?”
I didn’t have a fishing rod. I didn’t even own one. Realizing how unprepared I had come, I told him no. To my relief, my grandfather pulls out two fishing rods – one for me, one for my little brother. I held the fishing rod in my hand, wondering what was going to happen next.
He then leaned over to us again and, this time, asked, “Did either of you bring any bait?”
I realized all over again how ill equipped I was to be fishing on a dock with this legendary fisherman, and I had forgotten a fishing rod and bait. Again, my granddad reached into his high-tech tackle-pack and pulled out some live worms that he had bought at the store. He smiled and began teaching my brother and I how to fish.
There’s treasure in looking back over the story of your personal testimony. God reveals new things every time. Hardships, joys, triumphs, relationships – all find their purpose in the light of Christ. My story with Jesus started when I was young. Raised in a Christian home, I knew who Jesus was. I knew who God was. I knew the Bible. I had even memorized a number of Scriptures in my young age. But I didn’t personally know Jesus.
I met God for the first time at a Christian summer camp. The weeklong camp was filled with fun-for-thirteen-year-old-boys activities as well as a service every night consisting of musical worship and a message.
No, I was not a drug addict. No, I was not an alcoholic. And no, I’d never killed anyone.
But I was just as bad. I was someone who thought he knew God, but did not.
The band was up, the lights were down, and I started a simple conversation with God. There, in a small room at a Christian camp in Tyler, Texas, I realized that I was broken. It was as if the floodgates of my own sin – held at bay by a finger in the cracks – opened, and left me drowning. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by seven other guys, weeping. The weight of my sin dawned on me for the first time that evening. I remember breathing the phrase, “Jesus, I need You.” And in the midst of this realization, there was a response. Jesus answered in the most powerful and beautiful way:
“Then trust Me.”
“I trust You.”
During the music worship portion of the service that night, I heard the voice of God for the first time and it changed the direction of my life.
Here’s where God’s sense of humor comes into play. We went back to the cabin to take part in “reflection time.” Basically, we reflected on the message that we had just heard. The message, believe it or not, was focused on our dreams for the future and how God inspires and calls us into a purpose. It was not focused on the nature of sin, being saved, or going to heaven or hell. It was essentially, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It is so brilliant and hilarious to me that God chose to save me on that night in particular. He wanted me to know that all my dreams, aspirations, and purpose come directly from Him.
I sat next to my new friends and told them that I wanted to be a musician when I grew up. My best bud at the time, Avery, laughs and says, “You don’t even play an instrument!”
It was clear that my purpose was to share the hope of Christ and that my calling involved music in some way. Much of my middle school and high school years were spent discovering new facets of God’s perfect plan for my life. I remember sitting at the Kawai grand piano in the practice hall at Grapevine Faith Christian School throughout high school. I would press one note and just listen. Hours would go by as I sat and listened to each different note, how it sounded, and tried my best to learn and understand the rhythms of the sound waves making their way through the room. It is now clear how intentional God was in allowing me to learn this organically – to grow in my relationship to music in the same way I grow in my relationship to Jesus.
Years later, one of the Faith staff members whose office was next to that hall would jokingly tell me how painful it was to listen to me try to play when I was first starting off.
“Oh, you were TERRIBLE,” he’d tell me. He asked if I had ever taken piano lessons, to which I told him I had not. He then told me something I’ll never forget:
“God was teaching you!”
He said it in a jovial manner, but in a way, God did teach me music. Not the chords and the theory and the work ethic to grow as a musician – but He taught me what it meant to sit in the quiet, and in patience and humility, to listen.
God was there in that practice hall. God’s voice was in the notes. Through music, The Lord taught me patience. He taught me to listen. He taught me that His love is like a song.
“I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.” Psalm 49:4 (ESV)
The beauty in my testimony is that it has nothing to do with me. Sometimes I am Peter, stepping forward and thinking I have all the answers. Sometimes I am still that boy on the dock, realizing that I don’t have anything to contribute. It is in those moments that Jesus so graciously equips me, gifts me, and loves me into purpose. In every moment that I am ill-equipped, unprepared, or broken and lost, Jesus is there to pick me up and teach me the next lesson in love.
I don’t think my granddad was being snide. I don’t think he was trying to make me feel bad. My granddad asked me those questions so that I would know that I had a great deal to learn about fishing. In life, I still have a great deal to learn, and Jesus so graciously redeems my failures and makes my messes work for the good of His Kingdom.
My story is entirely about Jesus and not about me. As I look back, the treasure that I find in my testimony is everything that Jesus has done and nothing that I have done. The greatest, most profound beauty I have found is knowing that my hope is not in my ability, but is in Christ Jesus and His work in the cross. I am continually being sanctified, sharpened, and taught the rhythms of His grace. Still in the music, in the silence, and in the lessons, He is there.