BY JAKOB HARTT
I grew up attending Catholic school. Neither of my parents were religious, but they wanted me to have a private school education. In the 3rd grade, I was struck by a car while I was walking home after school, and easily could have died. I came away that day with nothing but bruises and a bent bike. For my mother, that was her “there is a God” moment, and she started going to church in the years after that. The summer after my 5th grade year, my mother forced me to go to Camp Woody, a week-long Christian summer camp.
I went into the week with a hard heart, but God proved persistent in His efforts to reach me. Towards the end of the week, I became more receptive to the songs the chapel band played. “Our God” written by Chris Tomlin, easily brought me to tears Thursday night, and the speaker’s simplistic analogy of the blood of Christ spoke to the deepest parts of my heart. I walked up the stairs to my cabin that night and got saved.
Since that night, I’ve been infatuated with music. The passion in someone’s voice, the careful instrumentation, the list goes on; I relish every aspect of it. When my mother, around the time I was in 6th or 7th grade gave me the choice between doing tap dancing and joining a performing group where 10-20 kids from my age through high school played a variety of songs on African hand drums, the choice was obvious. I took a summer class where the teacher, went over the basics of hand drumming, and I fell in love. I drummed for the next few years, learning the intricacies behind the different instruments and growing closer with my teacher, whom quickly became a father figure/role model for me. I drummed for about 4 or 5 years until the group blew up, when my drum teacher went to prison for child molestation.
I was shocked, to say the least. To think that one of my role models could do what he was being convicted of shattered every unrealistic perception I had of every authority figure in my life. The infallible idols I had made of these people quickly came crashing down. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I became cynical, but I definitely learned to guard my heart from naïve expectations. In retrospect, God had a huge hand in this situation. In recognizing the sin of the people I had perceived to be unfailing, my relationships with these people (parents, pastors, all of the above), deepened significantly. My conversations with them advanced beyond surface discussion and into more intimate subjects.
Life went on, as I continued to make and learn from my mistakes. Towards the end of my 8th grade year, I got grounded. The island of Kodiak, Alaska has very little entertainment to begin with, so when I became grounded I was left with literally nothing to do. I decided to pick up my dad’s acoustic guitar that sat in the corner of my room. My dad was gracious enough to teach me a few basic chord shapes, and then left me to my own devices. Childlike wonder pervaded through my very being as I went through the pains and tribulations of learning an instrument. I would play late into the night, trying to learn songs by Metallica, Nirvana, and anything else that would satisfy my adolescent angst. My fingers bled and calloused, until I eventually gained an understanding of the guitar.
From that point on, music became a priority in my life. I acquired an insatiable desire to make music with others. So much so that I went against common sense and joined the high school jazz band my junior year, despite not knowing how to read music (I faked it the entire year, still not sure how they didn’t figure it out). I started a student-led worship/bible study event with a few of my friends, something that improved several different areas of my life, from organizational skills, to musical necessities like finding the right key and making a set flow.
Something that was also very important to me, for better or for worse, in high school was my relationships. As I grew as a person, both romantic relationships and friend groups came and went. Despite being an introvert, I love people. I love sharing stories and sharing experiences. Whether that’s hanging out at a coffee shop or skating on a frozen lake, my favorite memories involve the people I’ve met and “done life” with.
I would not be who or where I am today without the people in my life. People like Chris who has taught me spiritual maturity as well as honesty. Keith, who has been a stalwart positive influence in my life as well as a model of Christ’s love and compassion. Michael, Richie, and Micah, whom I have shared the mountains and valleys of my life with. Zhanelle and Mariah, who taught me things about myself I would never have learned otherwise. These are just a few of the people who have shaped me into who I am today.
If you pull anything from my story, let it be this: love people, create with people, and do life with people. God didn’t create us to be islands. God craves intentionality in our relationship with Him, so we should crave the same in our human relationships.