After his three-year-old son drowned, he left country music for ministry

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By Antonio Pellot –

Drunk six months after his son drowned, Granger Smith sat on the back of the bus and pulled out his gun.

“This is the way to peace, just squeeze the trigger,” said a voice in his head, as reported on a 700 Club video.

Granger Smith was on top of the world, with sold-out country music shows and a family.

But in 2019, his world imploded when he, playing with his kids in the backyard, spotted his 3-year son floating upside down in the pool.

The gate was closed and locked, so how did River get in? Granger panicked and, grabbing his son, tried to administer CPR as the ambulance was called.

“He’s not going to make it,” the emergency room doctor stated, shaking his head grimly.

Amber with their ill-fated son, River

“I failed at the one thing a father is supposed to do, keep his son a live. I failed at that,” recalls Granger, who also played under the stage name Earl Dibbles Jr. “Feeling the guilt and the shame from that, I realized I needed to be the rock for my family.”

The torment of his inability to save his son and the urgency to be a rock for his family together were irresistible. To escape the pain and to man-up for his family, Granger threw himself into his work to numb the pain.

It didn’t help.

Instead, a slide show replayed interminably in his brain: River upside in the pool, an ambulance coming down the country road, a doctor emerging shaking his head, grimly saying “Your son’s not going to make it.”

Over and over again.

“I couldn’t get that slide show out of my head,” he says. “It would absolutely cripple me. I felt like I was drowning.”

Therapy, self-help books, meditation, even Bible devotionals didn’t help. Only vaping marijuana calmed his nerves, that is, until everything crashed down on his head on the tour bus. After back-to-back concerts six months after River’s death, his band had celebrated at the bar.

“This is the first time I’ve been drunk since it all went down,” Granger realized as he found the back of the bus. Immediately, the slide show rolled in his brain.

“I started sobbing. I started shaking,” he remembers. “I pulled out my gun, put the gun up to my head. That’s when I had a thought. It was outside of my own consciousness. That’s the best way I can describe it. The thought was, this is the way to rest. I recognized that there was an enemy speaking to me.”

“Jesus, save me,” he cried out to God, dropping down to the floor of the bus. “Please save me.

“That night I fell asleep in peace. That next morning was Day One of a new journey,” he says.

Granger began to discover Jesus – more than just the Sunday school lessons he received as a kid. He began to listen to hundreds of Billy Graham sermons.

Not long after his “eyes were opened.” Driving his truck, he had an epiphany. “Lord Jesus, rule my life,” he prayed. “Take control. I give everything to you. I surrender. I turn from my sin. Let me serve you. Everything else is rubbish.”

August 2023 was Granger’s last show, ending 24 years in the industry with 11 studio albums, one live album and two EPs.

He became a Southern Baptist minister in Austin, Texas. He and his wife, Amber, had a fourth child, Maverick, bringing the tally to one girl and three boys.

If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here

About the writer of this article: Antonio Pellot studies at Lighthouse Christian Academy just over the hill from the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.