Inked on Chris Quilala's arm is the name, Jethro Dylan. The script tattoo is in honor of his son, who passed away before his birth on December 3, 2014.
The Jesus Culture worship leader has been making songs for the internationally known band and leading thousands into praise on records and in services for about 15 years. Now, he's taking the pain and inspiration he felt at his son's passing and transforming it into beautiful worship songs.
Not one for the spotlight, but always wanting to work on a personal project, the singer/songwriter pushed past his hesitancy to produce his debut solo album, Split the Sky, hoping that his story would speak to listeners.
"My wife and I lost our son, and so we went through a journey of encountering God's goodness and His hope even in the midst of such pain," Quilala says. "So a lot of songs came from that. It just felt like the right time to make a solo album and put language and music behind what I've experienced, and just God's goodness and faithfulness through what I've felt and I'm sure will be the darkest season I've ever walked through."
It's not always easy to worship, especially when you're grieving. But, his family decided early on that they were going to praise God even while walking through a dark valley.
"[Worship is] definitely a choice," he says. "For us, we had the choice even as we were holding our son in the hospital room, or in the funeral home, even though we were obviously grieving and in shock and all of these emotions, we had the choice to blame God. But instead, we chose -- even in our hurt and confusion -- to believe that He is good and that He is our healer. He is the God who raises the dead. Even though we didn't see that happen...we're going to worship. We're going to still proclaim those things that we've proclaimed all our lives, that God is good, that He's our healer, that He's faithful."
The pain we all bear in this life can become unbearable – it certainly has for Quilala, at times. But, that's when he looks to Heaven. He has "Jethro" inked on his arm for life and keeps his son close to his heart, even as he picks up his guitar to sing to the God of all comfort.
"As believers, we have an opportunity on this Earth to give God a sacrifice of worship because when we get to Heaven it won't be a sacrifice. So for us, that was our sacrifice, worshipping in what was the hardest moment of our lives and season of our lives. To sing certain songs, to pray for someone who needs healing or a miracle, it's still really hard at times."
"After My Heart", one of the exalting new songs on Split the Sky, inspired the album's title and paints a picture the father of four holds onto.
"It's just really that picture of God moving Heaven and Earth to be with us when we call out to Him. You can read throughout scripture several examples of what happens when we worship," he says. "There's been moments where we've made the choice to worship, and we've in turn felt God come and bring healing or joy in the midst of our pain."
"Eternity's real and I want to anchor myself in eternity. Even though circumstances here on Earth change or there's mountains and there's valleys, God doesn't change. I want to anchor myself in that truth. And so a lot of those songs on the album are written from that perspective, that God is so faithful and He meets us where we're at when we allow Him to come and be a part of our lives in that way."