In sixth grade, I decided to learn how to play the guitar for the same reason middle school boys do anything: to woo girls. After one too many turnovers made it clear that my illustrious career as the point guard of my Christian school’s basketball team was coming to an end, I convinced my dad to buy me a black-and-white Fender Squier Strat—a cutting-edge ax that (I was certain) would be my key to metamorphosing into the hardest of hardcore 12-year-old heartthrobs.

Not long after, my youth pastor—channeling the eerie sixth sense that all youth pastors have of being able to intuit whether anyone in their vicinity plays an instrument—pulled me aside after church and asked if I wanted to join the praise band. “I only know how to play the G, D, and C chords,” I said. “Perfect,” he said. I made my debut as the band’s new lead guitarist two weeks later.

Soon my friends picked up instruments, too, and it wasn’t long until a musical coup d’état had taken place. The “Lord I Lift Your Name On High”-playing old guard was out, and we, with our distortion pedals, band T-shirts from Hot Topic, and dreams of becoming the next group signed by Tooth & Nail Records, were in.

We had what some might consider a “limited” catalog—about nine songs in total. Each week, the set list was the same: open with “Blessed Be Your Name,” transition into two Hillsong United hits, and close out the show with a dramatic rendition of “God of Wonders.” From the stage, I would scan the audience, searching for my crush du jour’s shining visage. Then, after confirming that she was indeed admiring me from her spot near the back of ...

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