What I Learned About Love & Marriage at a Pantera Concert

What I Learned About LOVE & MARRIAGE at a Pantera Concert // jessconnell.com

I was a child of a public-school Bible-belt upbringing in the 90s.

The hurry-up-and-sign-it “True Love Waits” promise card at a yearly youth event clashed with my daily environment of couples-making-out-in-the-practice-rooms of the high school marching band hall. These competing elements formed a mish-mash foundation for my emerging personhood, all of it playing to a soundtrack of upbeat Amy Grant and alternative grunge.

Less than a year before the full collision of those two worlds, I met him– the hero I thought could combine these two incompatible worlds:

  • I was barely 15, he was 19.
  • I was a yet-undiscovered-shoplifter; he was a known thief and felon.
  • I was a breeze-my-way-through honors student; jail had kept him from graduating.
  • I was a drumline girl, learning to play guitar; he was in a rockband.
  • I wore dark black eyeliner; he wore tattoos and piercings.
  • I was off-put by the lack of sober discipleship in my childhood churches; yet, senselessly, when I learned that he was a member of a local Baptist church (though he never attended), I felt relief.
  • Our eyes met and locked across a drugged-out New Years’ Eve party, and our short-term inseparability formed as I shared that I’d been taken advantage of by a guy that very night on the way to the party. Well past midnight, we applied ourselves to the pulling off of bloodied Mortal Kombat heads.
  • But he conversed with my mom, and assured me of his belief in God. He seemed so sincere and nice. I bought it.

It all sounds absurd to me now… more than 20 years later. But it felt so legitimate… raw… genuine back then. When he said, “I love you,” and “I love God,” I believed him. When I told him, “I love you,” I meant it.

I did not, though, mean what I now mean when I say “I love you.” Not anywhere close.

And that brings us to the things I learned about love and marriage that came from a Pantera concert— the pinnacle, and the beginning of the end, of our relationship.

{If you aren’t familiar with Pantera, think 90s heavy metal, and add in a musician called “Dimebag Darrell” (dime bag = a measure of marijuana), and you’ll have a sufficient idea of what we’re talking about.}


Even though he bought the tickets, he wasn’t willing to put himself in an uncomfortable position by asking my parents’ permission for me to attend the coveted concert. So I deceived my mom. I found a Pantera ballad with not-overly-indecent lyrics and played it for her, then I skipped to the end of that same ballad (to a part that sounded different) and played it for her as if it was another song. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, and probably pulled out all my persuasive speech tactics. They (rightly) had angst about me attending the concert; thus I chose to be at odds with my God-given protectors on behalf of someone who would not protect me. I felt like I MUST convince them I could go; looking back, I’m sure if I couldn’t have gone, he’d have been just as glad to go with someone else.

Love’s not like that. Real love works within the boundaries God has set up. It doesn’t sneak around to get its way. Real men pursue women, and are willing to go through the right channels in that pursuit.


Because I thought he loved me, I was willing to let his hands cradle and explore my body in ways I wish I’d reserved for my husband. I was willing to join him in using mind-altering drugs. I was willing to attend a grimy, smoke-saturated concert hall to be with him.

Real love doesn’t use the body of another person for his/her own pleasure. It doesn’t need to be deadened by substance use, or bring its beloved to dark places where sin is celebrated.


We made our way down to the edge of the mosh pit. My previous moshing encounters were much milder than this, so I didn’t realize what I was in for. Linebacker-sized men romped around, slamming into each other, swinging fists in uproarious fury. My still-dainty stomach didn’t stand a chance against the swinging elbow that found it as a grown man fell backwards into me at full force.

To be fair, he took me to a back platform, away from the hubbub. But I think it annoyed him that I’d wrecked the big date. A few minutes later, he left me there. Crying. High. Hurting. Alone. Coughing from the smoke? from the hurt stomach? …not sure which.

I tried to mask it with self-explanations that of course he wanted to enjoy the concert, and he brought me back here to protect me. But the truth is: I felt– and was– so loopy, so vulnerable, and so very alone. 

But that’s not how love acts. Love puts itself between the vulnerable and potential harm. Love stays with the one who is hurting and tends their hurts. Love cares more about the “other” than the self.


That was the beginning of the end of our relationship. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, it’s clear as day. Not long after this coveted, lied-for, clawed-for date, he called it quits. At the time, I was indescribably heartbroken; now I’m so grateful.

1 Corinthians 13 says love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Real love never fails. Love is a disposition toward the one who is loved that is more about them, and less about self, than what I believed “love” to be. Rather than using another person, biblical love sacrifices itself for the good of another human being.

My young adulthood was filled with experiences like this– I enrolled myself again and again in the school of hard things. Eventually, I learned to submit myself to the truth and learn the lesson on the front end, rather than needing the pain of learning the hard way in order to learn.

Contrary to what I believed then, what I came to learn is this:

  • Love is a persevering choice of benevolence– willing and working for the long-term good– toward another person.

  • Marriage is a covenant to keep choosing love and faithfulness toward one person, regardless of feelings. 

Though I haven’t listened to their music in… well… decades, that Pantera concert experience contained the seeds of lessons I needed.

IN THE COMMENTS, please share: In your life, where do you look back and see difficult moments where God planted seeds of lessons you needed? 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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5 Responses

  1. Libby says:

    Awesome. So real and full truth. I learned these same truths in similar ways. At times I still am so ashamed of my young stupidity and pride, but I always end up recognizing how thankful I am for Christ who shined his way into my life and for my husband who is far better than what my idea was of a husband and a man.

  2. shannon bradbury says:

    What I wish I knew back then. True love is about commitment, not just sleeping with someone.It’s about walking through experiences together and still choosing to love. Thank you for sharing! :)

  3. Ben says:

    wow. This was great. Thanks for paving the way with honesty and weakness. I can relate to the foolish decisions of youth….and yesterday and can’t wait to see doors are opened in sharing good news as you venture into more and more honesty with your story.

  4. Powerful and so very true. What a difference between God’s beautiful way and the world’s! Thank you!

  5. Jessica says:

    Yes, there were so many times I listened to the enemies lies but God still brought me through those dark times and now I am walking in Him. So thankful He snatches us out of the enemies hands and secures us. I look back with regrets but I also know that I have first hand seen God’s goodness and the world’s emptiness.

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