While standing in the courtroom, the weight of all my mistakes on my shoulders, a man to my left is speaking on my behalf and bargaining with the judge. “Your Honor, my client is prepared to join the military and complete any type of community service to lower the charges.” The judge looks at me and asks, “Son, did you learn your lesson?” I look up with the feeling of hollowness… emptiness… loneliness… I can just muster two words… “Yes, sir.”
My name is Justin Gambino, and I am a follower of Jesus, husband, songwriter, and dream chaser.
I had a dream placed on the back burner when I found myself in that courtroom. Ever since I was a young boy, music has been a big part of my life. From strumming on my bible like it was a guitar during church service until I received my first guitar as a gift at the age of 15. I was destined to do what I am doing now. Living out my dream. But the journey wasn’t an easy one, to say the least. My dream had to be put on hold. Or so I thought…
In 2007, just several years after finding myself in that courtroom. I found myself overseas fighting for the very freedom that I took for granted for so many years. I gained a new perspective. I respect everyone who had sacrificed on the battlefield before I ever did. While at the same time thinking, “If I had never done what I did, I wouldn’t be here” Yes, part of me didn’t want to be there, while at the same time, I was proud to be serving. Little did I know that God was pursuing me and my heart more than I could have ever imagined.
When I was in Iraq, I would occasionally attend the chapel on base. It didn’t take long for what happened next. They needed someone who could lead worship. Something that I’ve done in my church’s youth group before. I knew how to play and sing. It all seemed so distant to me at that time while wearing a uniform and having a mission to complete every day.
So without hesitation, I called my Dad… “Dad, can you ship me my guitar?”
After all of this took place, my military friends did nothing but build me up and encourage me to get out and chase what I’ve really been called to do.
In 2015, being out of the military for a couple of years and newly married to my wife, Ashley, we had a choice to make. We decided to step back from my job and start pursuing music full-time. We knew that God was calling me to it. I couldn’t ignore the tug on my heart. I was writing more. Traveling more. Making appearances at churches, festivals, and venues.
After several years of touring and releasing music as an independent artist, 2020 came along…
We all know what 2020 brought, and I won’t even give it a name or talk politics here. But I can tell you that I needed the season that year brought. I needed to slow down and remember how to be still in the midst of chaos. To have courage in a time of darkness and in the midst of the unknown.
At the end of that year, God put it on my heart to host a revival in my hometown… where? At the courthouse… Now, it didn’t hit me just then at that moment, but when I was on that stage, I turned to look at my good friend Joshua playing drums. With his cheeks shining from the wetness of his tears, I saw something behind him – the courthouse – the very building where I found myself with the weight of all my failures on my shoulders. I was overwhelmed to have witnessed my very own full-circle story – I just wept.
This last year, God made it clear to me to host another revival. Same place – the courthouse. I was just coming off tour and in the middle of recording a brand new song and video to release.
I thought to myself: “Wow – God is working out all the details.”
- We need a venue for the video.
- We need a crowd for the video.
We came together at the revival. We worshiped until our voices hurt. We hit the record button and captured it all.
Now, the song and video are out for the world to see and be encouraged.
Looking back, I can see where God was giving me courage along the way. Backing me up when I felt like no one was in my corner. This journey we are all on isn’t an easy one, and sometimes we find ourselves in places where the only option seems to be to give up hope. But if we get up, dust ourselves off, and look to the One who gives us courage, then we can persevere through any trials this world throws at us.
I pray that my new song “Courage” gives you just that – Courage!