At the peak of his success, musician Austin Carlile was in pain. Of Mice & Men, the band he founded in 2009, had built a growing momentum with their music – recording albums and performing for massive crowds all around the world. Each night, Austin took the stage and poured everything he had into the performance in spite of the pain that was ravaging his body.
When he was a teenager, Austin lost his mother to a condition called Marfan Syndrome caused by a genetic mutation that affects the body's connective tissue and causes a variety of painful and dangerous complications. A DNA test later confirmed that he has the same condition.
"With Marfans, I wasn't even supposed to do sports anymore, and here I was jumping off of balconies, and jumping off of stage and starting mosh pits and going into the middle of them."
One of the most critical worries for someone with Marfan Syndrome is the aortic valve in the heart. Even though Austin took a break from his tour and underwent open heart surgery in which his doctors replaced part of his aorta with the same material as a sailboat sail, a repaired heart still couldn't resolve the pain.
"My health started to get worse and worse and worse and worse. Issues with my hip, my ribs, my back, my legs...it a very sharp decline."
Eventually, Austin came to a breaking point. Of Mice & Men was more successful than ever, but Austin felt overwhelmed by loss, by emptiness, by pain. He called his dad and confided in him. He asked if there was something he was missing. His dad asked a simple question: Where is God in your life?
"I don't remember my response. I don't remember the rest of the conversation, but I remember hanging up and those words just hanging on my spirit – Where is God in your life?"
Austin turned the question over and over in his mind. He didn't have an answer, but he knew he was craving something different – relief, purpose, change.
"I remember...saying, You know what God?...I want you to use me. Use my feet, use my hands, use my mouth, use my talent, use everything that I am for your glory. I give you my life. I give you my heart. Use it. And I had no idea what I was in for."
Austin left his band and his life behind and moved to Costa Rica to let his body rest. He coached baseball and taught music and ran sound in his dad's church, but still, every day, there was the pain.
One day at church, Austin met a group of missionaries traveling through South America who asked if they could pray for his health. After so many years of performing on stage, hiding his pain with medication and sheer force of will, Austin felt seen by the strangers he didn't know. They saw him hurting. They weren't afraid to name the pain, to talk to him about it, to touch him and pray for healing.
Healing isn't always easy. It takes many forms. Sometimes it means relief from pain. Sometimes it means something that was broken is made whole. And, sometimes it means stripping everything away and starting new. For Austin, it was all three.
"I saw it as God saying, 'You wanted to be a new man? You're a new man in me? Here we go...[Christ] is so important to me because I don't have anything else. I literally have nothing else, but my heart is more full than it's ever been."
You can watch Austin's full film with I Am Second here.