I didn’t grow up in a religious home. My mom was Protestant and my dad was Catholic, but that basically meant we sometimes went to church on Sunday when we were in town. My parents taught my sister, Julie, and I to do the right thing and be good people — and even to love God — but I never knew anything about the Gospel or having a relationship with Christ.
By the time I was in second grade, my teachers were saying that I probably wouldn’t amount to much. Diagnosed with severe learning disabilities and speech impediments, I remember crying out to God, asking, Why did You make me this way?
That’s when music came into my life. First the piano — I could listen to a song and learn to play it quickly. Soon I began writing my own songs.
Even as a young girl, I would sing my heart out for hours. When I sang the songs I wrote, I would get so caught up in a beautiful, peaceful Presence. It would overwhelm me to the point that I would cry. Sometimes I would ask my mom, “Do you feel that?”
Even then, I know God heard my praise. He heard my worship even when I didn’t yet know what that was.
Once the music hit, my learning problems all but disappeared, and I began to excel academically. In high school, I won many musical awards and honors as I began playing multiple instruments and participating in band and jazz band. After graduation, I got into my dream college — Berklee College of Music in Boston — where I went in as a piano prodigy and ended up a jazz major.
Berklee was my first time out from under my parents’ roof. I lived the typical college girl life. I was searching for acceptance. I looked for love in all the wrong places and struggled with body image. I thought career, success and relationships were the things that gave me worth.
At the end of my junior year, I had hit rock bottom. Even though I was playing gigs at fancy bars, singing background vocals for famous musicians, had the cute on-campus boyfriend, and was thinner than I’d ever been (too thin), I was desperately unhappy.
The things the world said would fill me up were just making me more anxious and depressed. I finally had everything I wanted, and I still wasn’t happy. I battled a deep longing for more and thought, There must be a better reason to live than all of this.
One day, after I’d performed a song I’d written for my songwriting class, a classmate approached me. Some of the lyrics to the song had been, God has given us the strength to be who we are, so never give up. A girl named Stacey came right up to me and said, “You sang about God. Do you know Jesus? Are you saved?”
I’d never heard those phrases.
I looked at her funny and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
That began a beautiful friendship. She could tell my heart was ready. And in the weeks that followed, she taught me what it meant to be a believer and have a relationship with Jesus. She made the Gospel really relevant and very attainable. It wasn’t a bunch of rules. There was no legalism about it whatsoever.
When she gave me a Bible, I said, “What do I do with this?” I truly didn’t know. I thought maybe you were supposed to sleep with it under your pillow.
“Well, you’re a songwriter, so why don’t you start with the Psalms?” she suggested.
As I began to read the Psalms, I felt like God had written them for me. Everything I was facing — my guilt, shame, insecurity — was like every Psalm I read. Next, I read the Gospels and fell in love with Jesus. I realized how much I desperately needed Him and what a sinner I was.
Stacey invited me to Bible study, and I was blown away by how loving everyone was and how they lifted their hands in worship as they sang “Jesus songs.”
I was so taken with Jesus, and music was a big part of that. Stacey gave me a Darlene Zschech Shout to the Lord CD. That was my first exposure to Christian music. I remember listening to it and thinking, I’m supposed to do that.
About two months after meeting Stacey, one morning I felt the Holy Spirit prompting my heart. I didn’t know the words to say, but I prayed the best I knew, giving my life over to Christ. I called Stacey and said, “I think I got saved!”
Almost immediately, I could sense God changing my life from the inside out. He began to renew my mind and heal my heart. In obedience, I got out of a bad relationship and surrounded myself with Christian community.
I’m a passionate person, and I dove into my newfound faith wholeheartedly. When you get saved as an adult, you have some habits and strongholds in your life that need to be broken, but it takes time and prayer and counsel. God surrounded me with people who helped me walk those roads out well.
My life totally changed. Before Christ, I had a potty mouth and was a party girl, but once I encountered Jesus and His presence, those things lost their appeal. I just couldn’t go back. And the more time I spent in His Word, the more God made me into the person He had created me to be all along.
People noticed. They said, “Wow, what’s different? You’ve changed.” I began leading worship and leading others to Christ. A lot of people came to know the Lord during that last semester at Berklee, which was a redemptive way to end some of the darkest years of my life. At my commencement ceremony, I sang my first song about the Lord to an audience of 3,000 people.
A New Song
It’s been over a decade since Jesus got ahold of my life. Miraculous things have happened since then. After graduation, I took an internship as a worship leader at a church in Seattle and signed on for my first Christian record deal.
Around that time, my mom flew out for my baptism, heard the Gospel and walked forward to accept Christ. She went home and led my dad to the Lord. My sister also accepted Christ during her college years. Even my Nana got saved.
My ministry began with leading worship and expanded to my sharing my story with groups of young women. I’ve gone on four missions trips that opened my eyes to God’s father heart for children and orphans around the world. Today I regularly speak to women on issues of body image, identity and finding their worth in Christ.
None of this would be possible if Jesus hadn’t pursued me. I didn’t know this Christian life at all, but from the time I was a little girl, He just kept showing up. He gave me the gift of music and strategically put people in my path to help me see Him. He wooed me. And He changed my life.
Copyright 2014 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.