I woke up exhausted from a long night of performing and partying. I looked at my phone and wondered who I might need to call and apologize to for the night before. That was my first thought every morning. For three months, I had been out every night, drinking and fighting anyone who dared stand against me. It never failed that I would hurt or offend someone in some way. This was my life…but looking at my phone, I realized I didn’t want to be that person anymore.
I hadn’t always been this way. I grew up carefree and happy. My dad was a musician and played in a band. I can still picture him playing his guitar and singing with his friends. His passion was contagious, and I caught it. Music became my life.
My family wasn’t super religious. I guess we were what you’d call CEOs—Christmas and Easter Onlys. On Christmas and Easter, we’d buy new clothes and join other CEOs on a local pew. I did attend a few youth group meetings in my teens and learned a bit about God, but I’d never pursued a relationship with Him. If you asked me if there was a God, I would have said yes…but I didn’t know Him.
I moved to Tallahassee after high school and started up a band called Mayday Parade. We worked hard and ended up performing nationwide on The Warped Tour. We also landed a contract with Fearless Records. It was a musician’s dream come true.
Eventually wanting a more grown-up sound, I left Mayday Parade and started Go Radio. The music was positive and inspired people to reach for bigger and better things. We pushed ourselves to be the best musicians we could be and created a unique sound.
Life was good. I had a record label and a popular band that was traveling the country. But then my dad—my best friend and role model—died from a blood clot. And life went dark. I was 23.
That’s how I felt. Angry at my dad for leaving me and angry at God for allowing him to go. Surely if there was a good God who loved me, He would never have let this happen. My dad was a great man.
After his death, drama overtook our family. People I thought loved me disappeared from my life forever. They wanted nothing to do with me or my siblings. I felt betrayed once again.
My heart hardened, and I turned away from any belief in God. I became an angry, self-proclaimed atheist, angry at the whole world.
Being angry, empty, and disappointed led to an empty life of drugs, alcohol, bars, and fighting. Music and performing became my idols. I was sure they would never betray me.
Looking back, I see how dangerous my lifestyle and belief system had become. My self-worth and happiness were dependent on things that could disappear in a heartbeat—the applause of man, fame, the spotlight. They were all temporal. Yet they consumed my life.
There was a time when I would tour for 11 months straight, not because I needed the money, but because I needed the admiration of people. I thrived on their loud screams, applause, and requests for autographs. Without them, I felt like I was nothing. But the music always faded and the applause grew silent and I was left to face the empty void of my hardened heart.
Then I met a girl on tour who would help me see a more fulfilling way. Her name is Dee. Dee had this purity about her that immediately attracted me. She wasn’t just beautiful physically; she was beautiful to the core. Her heart was filled with such peace, love, and hope—everything I needed and longed for. But Dee made it quite clear she wasn’t going to get too close. She didn’t date band boys or non-Christians, and she wasn’t about to sleep with anyone before marriage. I had a few strikes against me. I got up the courage and asked if talking on the phone broke any of her rules.
For months we talked, across three time zones, sometimes all night long. We talked about everything, especially God. Dee’s faith was an open matter to her. It was refreshing to hear someone talk about God in such a real way. I had never had that kind of faith or emotion for God. He was the very air she breathed. One night, Dee and I were texting back and forth. I was asking all sorts of deep things about God, and she finally said, “Jason, I don’t have the answers to your questions. You need to ask God.”
I was like, no way! What if I spent all that time talking to God, and He wasn’t even real? I’d feel like an idiot!
The real issue, however, was that I was too ashamed of the person I’d become to even approach God. Finally, desperate for truth, I took Dee’s advice and began asking God my questions. But I heard nothing. I gave God ten seconds to speak, then a minute, then five minutes. And still nothing. I called Dee and complained. She told me to ask the Holy Spirit to fill me and to communicate the very heart of God to my heart.
It was mechanical at first. All I knew was to repeat what I’d seen in church many years before. But eventually, my desperation for God won out. I fell flat on my face and cried out to Him.
What I am about to share may make you uncomfortable, but it is a true account of how God revealed Himself to me. God knew I needed a bold, tangible, in-your-face encounter that I could cling to for the rest of my life. I’m a bit hardheaded like that—but God meets us all right where we are.
As I cried out for the Holy Spirit to fill me with His love and wisdom, my body began to lock up, and I began to cry uncontrollably. It was like years of grief poured from my soul. Then, suddenly, it felt as if someone had unscrewed the top of my head and began filling me with warm water. Ultimate comfort is how I would describe it. Next, I began to see things, visions of sorts. I saw Dee standing in a mountain setting with a wedding ring on her finger and child in hand. And then I came to.
I looked over at the bed next to me…and there was one of my band members, passed out cold from a night of partying. Drool ran down his cheek. What a sad picture of my old life. I was ready for a new one.
“You win, God,” I said. “Your power and Your presence is undeniable. Forgive me. Save me. Redeem my life and make me new.” In that moment, I surrendered my heart to God.
I called my sister, who had been praying for me for years, to tell her the good news. Then I called Dee. It was 4 a.m. I hesitated at first to tell her about my dream, afraid it would run her off. We’d only been talking on the phone for five months at this point. She insisted, however, and I gave in.
She listened, then she told me about a book she had compiled that contained her own dreams. It had words and pictures, one of which was a picture of her being married on a mountain. Everything she shared with me lined up exactly with the things I had seen in my vision. That was all the confirmation I needed. I told Dee I was moving to Orlando to marry her. She was like, “Umm, why don’t we start with dating.”
I moved to Orlando, we started dating, and we were married eight months later. Dee and her family invited me to First Baptist Orlando. The moment I walked into that church, I felt at home. Listening to the choir and the worship team, I realized that leading people into the presence of God through music was what I had been created to do.
I volunteered with the worship team and began looking for opportunities to serve full time as a worship leader. A position opened up for me in Atlanta. I left my day job, walked away from my band, and Dee and I packed up our house to move north. But a week before moving day, we felt God showing us that Atlanta wasn’t where we were supposed to be.
I will admit to being confused and disappointed. I had given up much and laid it all on the line for God, and now I had nothing. No job, no band, and no position as a worship leader. I began to pray. Surely God wouldn’t fail me now. He didn’t. Within weeks, He’d opened a door as the worship leader at First Baptist Orlando.
With tattoo-covered arms and gauges in my ears, I’m not your typical Baptist worship leader. I’m so thankful I attend a church that looks past the external appearance of a person to see their heart; a church that loves all people as Christ loves them—unconditionally.
It is this perfect love that I want to share with our congregation each weekend so that they, too, can experience the unconditional, redeeming love of Christ. There’s nothing like it.
Before I surrendered to Jesus Christ, I was an angry, lonely, bitter man. Today, in Him, I am filled with love, peace, and joy. I have hope. I wake up each morning excited about the day and ready to be a blessing. I no longer wake up to regret or confusion. Praise God.
I hope you have found this place of peace. Don’t let your questions or your bitter, angry heart keep you from God. Come to Him. Ask of Him. He will never fail you.
Written by Jason Lancaster