Written by Paul Westbrook
I used to hate it when people asked me if I was Saved. I guess because I knew the answer was that I wasn’t. For years, when people brought it up, I’d tell them all the same basic thing, “I was raised Catholic. I was baptized as a baby. I’m good. End of story.” It would be many years before the deep concepts of Salvation, Sanctification, Worship, Prayer, and Forgiveness would truly reveal themselves to me.
First I would have to endure decades of doubt, rebellion, darkness, and self- indulgence. I flirted with disaster on a daily basis. Alcohol, drugs, lust, and even idolatry were common threads throughout those years. I chased the rock’n’roll dragon all over the world – dodging danger and death at every corner. As exciting as it all was on the outside, I was suffering badly on the inside. Loneliness and depression were constantly on my trail. At one point, life had become so bitter, I would shake my fist at the sky every morning (er.. afternoon) when I woke; I was so angry that I had to face another day in a prison I had crafted for myself. It turns out, the rock’n’roll life is as destructive as they make it out to be. Who knew?!
One day, I hit my breaking point, and I hit my knees. There I was, begging the God I had been ignoring – and outright denying – for so many years, for a breakthrough in my life. I said, “God, I don’t know you and I don’t understand you, but if you’ll give me one person who truly cares about me and not this rockstar nonsense that everyone else sees when they look at my life, I’ll give all of this up.” I don’t think I expected an answer.. Certainly not as quickly as one came.
Within weeks I was reintroduced to an old acquaintance. We struck up a romance and life began to change rapidly. She was a believer. She was the first person to quote Bible scriptures to me (except those crazy guys in the overalls and rubber boots shouting them at me in the quad at LSU – but they don’t count). She somehow knew exactly which one would get to me, even when I hadn’t told her what was going on with me. It was creepy at first, but I had a suspicion that something big was starting to move in my life. That was confirmed when the spiritual attacks began. I could’ve done without those, but they opened my eyes to a wider reality – one I, like most of us, would rather ignore. That’s a topic for another day though.
Soon we were married and I assumed that God had answered my prayer for a mate that would love me unconditionally. And we lived happily ever after..
Well, sort of.. It would take me another ten years to figure out that my wife was a gift from God, but she was not the answer to my prayer.
But I’ll come back to that.
Despite my wife’s family history in Christian ministry and her desire to raise our family in that tradition, we were living an unchurched life here in Louisiana – and we were suffering.
Five years ago, we were living a dream. I had a successful career in the touring music biz. My amazing wife had given us two beautiful children. We were living in an awesome little village suburb of Richmond, Virginia and life seemed almost perfect in so many ways. But there was one nagging reality I could not shake. The road was wearing on me, and despite my career ambitions, being an absentee father was not something I could reconcile in my heart. So, we decided to do something we swore we would never do.
We decided to move back home to Louisiana. We sold, gave away, and tossed most of our belongings, said goodbye to our amazing friends and family, and we traded Appalachia for Atchafalaya. It might have felt like a defeat if I had not so quickly landed a legitimate job doing what I love – mixing audio and managing live productions at the local art center. We had the highest of hopes for a fresh start and we were so excited about spending more time together as a family.
It was challenging at first. We were staying with my folks and I was commuting 170 miles a day while working 50-70 hour weeks. I was seeing my tribe less at this point than when I was touring, but we assumed it would get better once we found a place of our own and moved closer to my job. It didn’t.
The job was all-consuming. If I wasn’t physically at work, I was mentally at work. No one in our household was getting the quality time together we wanted or needed. We were falling apart in ways I had never thought possible. Anger, depression, frustration, bitterness, unforgiveness. The dream had descended into a nightmare. Much like the days when I woke cursing the sky, I found myself repeatedly saying out loud, “There is no peace in this life.” Something had to give – and fast!
Now, I’ve been fortunate several times over the years to be on the receiving end of a life changing opportunity. I’ll never forget the day I got a phone call from George Thorogood and the Destroyers telling me to go get a passport and pack my bags; or the night I was summoned to the Grand Ole Opry to meet my new boss, Carrie Underwood; or the time I got the call to stage manage arena tours for MercyMe; or the day I opened an email from Bruce Springsteen’s people offering me the biggest gig of my career. Those were amazing moments that opened doors to unimaginable places and experiences, and I will always remember them well. But I will forever bless the day that I got the most life-changing phone call of all.
I was driving to work at the art center, having a bit of a chat with God. I needed a new challenge, a new set of circumstances – and I needed them fast. It wasn’t long after that, my phone rang, and the voice of a friend on the other end delivered the answer to my prayer. He said, “I’ve taken a job out of state and I’m leaving in two weeks. How do you feel about taking my gig as Sound Engineer at Crossroads Church? I immediately knew that there was only one clear answer.“YES!”
That very Sunday at 6am, I walked through the doors of Crossroads Church and into the steadfast leadership of Pastor Jeff Ables and his incredible team. I was excited about the challenge of a new building, new people, and new systems to work on. I came in prepared to do a great job. After all, it has always been my goal to have a positive impact on my workplace. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t really brought here to do a mighty work in this venue – I was brought to this venue so a mighty work could be done in me – and eventually through me. After 20 years of running from God and church, there was nowhere left to hide.
It didn’t take long for me to settle into my new role at the soundboard. But I had a lot of catching up to do on the spiritual front. Thankfully, I was getting three sermons every Sunday, so I was catching up quickly. I was a bit shocked at how pleasant the whole experience was. After all, I had never really had a great church experience up until this point. I always felt like a hopeless outsider. But here, I could be myself and do my thing at the soundboard. Everyone was positive, kind, accepting, and appreciative. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I had only been doing the job for a few weeks when I went home and told my wife, “This is our church. Next Sunday you and the kids are getting up, getting dressed, and coming to meet me for service.” And they did.
Our kids quickly became enthralled with the KJAM children’s ministry. They were having a great time and learning more about God and the Bible than I had ever learned. My wife would look at me after almost every message and say, “I feel like the Pastor is talking directly to us.” And I felt the same way. Slowly, the icy mass that had become our marriage was beginning to thaw. We were coming back to life.
Our family has grown so much over the last three years. We are back to living a dream life – at home, together. We now tithe and attend services regularly at Crossroads. We participate in small groups and help with various projects in and around the church. We’ve made so many incredible friends there. Life has truly never been better. And now I don’t hate it at all when people ask me if I am Saved. I finally have a good answer to give them.
As for my job at the art center, I have moved out of that and I’m running my own business fulltime. Crossroads Church is one of my best clients. But it is so much more than that. I realized early on that this is not a mere job at all – it is a calling. And it’s a true honor to play a part in the spreading of God’s Word. I’ve described that moment of realization as feeling like a knight that had followed the light to the gates of a shining white city on a hill; and, upon entering, dropped and bowed to his knee in service of the King. God has lead me home in more ways than one.
I can now look back at this wild ride I have had, this ridiculous resume that I’m able to put my name on, and realize that I could not have ever dreamed this story up on my own. But someone did, and that someone has had His hand on me since the very beginning; ordering my steps, holding me back from the edge, shoving me out of danger, washing away my mistakes without keeping score, opening some doors and slamming others shut. No matter how far out of sight and mind He was to me at times, I was never – not even for a moment – out of His sight, His mind, or His reach. God has placed me in the service of many worldly masters and He has let me live out many of my selfish dreams, only to bring me back to a place where He can finally use me. Now I have the skills, the scars, and the street credit to truly operate in His service.
If I can be honest, I don’t remember the exact day and time that I became Saved. After all, I’ve said the Sinner’s Prayer many times. But I’ll always remember where I was when I finally understood it and truly meant it. I was sitting at the soundboard at Crossroads Church when the Gospel finally hit me. Like a wrecking ball, it leveled me. I couldn’t believe I had missed it all those years. Rarely a Sunday goes by now that I’m not moved to tears by what God has done in my life and so many others through this church.
I am not a picture of perfection. I am a work in progress – submitted to the hands of the Master Builder. Therein lies my only hope. I thank God for His grace, His mercy, His patience, His forgiveness, and His persistence. I need them daily. We all do.
Oh, and wouldn’t you know?! There is peace in this life after all. Its spelled, J-E-S-U-S. And He is the answer to that “God give me one person who truly cares about me” prayer I prayed so many years ago. It’s a shame it took me so long to figure that out.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7-8