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Walking Away

Tony Peterson

At one o’clock on the morning Chad Mattson was to leave for a mission trip, he was standing outside a hotel room, getting high. He made his five o’clock flight and spent the next two months serving as a missionary.

UN_0866_cmyk ChadBefore the trip, Chad, now lead singer for the band Unspoken, had spent two years committed to getting high every day. That commitment was a long way from the faith commitments he had made growing up in a Christian family.

In high school, Chad and his older brother had been known as the fun people who avoided drug and alcohol parties. “We would always provide a different alternative. . . . We would do different stupid things to keep our lives lively and to keep our friends wanting to hang out with us as opposed to partying up.” For a while, those friends would call Chad or his brother to be the designated driver when their partying got out of hand. But at one point, Chad decided he wanted to join the party.

In college, Chad stopped drinking. But when his college basketball plans didn’t work out, he left school and spent the winter visiting friends. His life was one long party. Eventually, he tried pot. “From that moment on, my goal was to get high every day all day.” Two and a half years later, he had kept his commitment and he was in debt to a drug dealer.

His upbringing had not escaped him. “I believed in God, and I could see God working in the midst of my life; but I was running away from God.” After a church service one Sunday, Chad’s brother handed him a card announcing a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and said, “Maybe you should do something with your life.”

Chad ignored the advice, but he tacked the card on a bulletin board. “I couldn’t get away from that card. It kept growing and growing. I’d see it every day when I walked into my room. God was stirring my heart even in the midst of my addiction.”

Eventually Chad started thinking, It would be nice to get clean and to start walking with God. But his feelings were mixed. “We have this huge misconception in church culture that we have to be doing well to come to God. And that’s just shattered in my story.”

UN_1413_RGB1Chad did respond to the card and signed up for the mission trip. Then after getting high and boarding the plane, he made one more promise. “I told God, ‘I’ve been trying to change myself for a long time, but what I will do is give you some of my time. I’ll read and I’ll pray and I’ll hang out with you.’ And that’s really what changed my life.”

Chad met Mike Gomez in the Dominican Republic. Mike was a new Christian, and they shared an interest in playing music. With fresh Christian commitments, they found spiritual support in each other. When Chad returned to the States, Mike followed; and Unspoken was born.

Chad waited several months before reconnecting with his former friends. He was beginning to live the words reflected in the Unspoken song “Walking Away”:
       I’m walking away from the trouble
       Walking away on the double
       Cutting the ties, leaving behind the old life
He had learned that the “core group of people you hang with has to be people who are on the same page, who want the same things, who are going after the same things in life.”

 

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Chad Mattson likes to quote 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NRSV): “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’”

What do you think? How is the scripture active in Chad’s story? Where do you see it in your own life? What commitments and actions can you take to walk away from the trouble?

 

Tony Peterson , a writer, editor, speaker, and educator in Nashville, Tennessee, is influenced by his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.

—from devozine (March/April 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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