This week I’m in Minneapolis for a Pastor’s conference which I atttend every year. It’s put on by Bethlehem Baptist Church, where John Piper pastors. The family came with me minus Josh who has his nose to the grindstone at school. It was two years ago at this conference that I ran into an old friend whom I hadn’t seen or heard from for 20 years or so: Dave Sommer. I hope to see him again this week.
You’d love Dave. He’s a joyful guy with a gentle, godly spirit; I found out when we ran into each other that he had only become a pastor a few years back. But it was more than 25 years ago that Dave and I were roommates for a summer, and the Lord used that time in my life in a very significant way.
The previous year had been a low point in my life. It was my junior year at the University of Illinois and you might call it my Nebuchadnezzar year. Me, the “A or B” student, well, I had almost flunked out. And I think I know why: You know that time in the book of Daniel when Nebuchadnezzar went out on the roof of his palace and looked at Babylon and thought about how great he was? The result was that God made him go mad for, well, I guess about 7 years. Without going into all the gory details, I also was afflicted with an overestimation of my own importance, and so, in God’s providence, I went mad for about a year. I was coming to the end of it (and the end of myself) when Dave and I became roommates in a houseful of Navigator guys during the summer of ’86.
There were about 5 or 6 guys in the house that summer, (one guy rented it and the others subleased from him, as I remember) and as it turns out, there were only so many bedrooms, and so two of us were going to have to share a room. Dave and I volunteered. What I remember about those few months is that he and I decided we would seek the Lord together.
During the day, he worked at a local bank while I labored at University Food Service, but when we would come back in the evening, we would often slow down and pray together. It was a healing time for me. I remember praying the Psalms and singing hymns. it’s funny what you recall. For instance, I remember singing “Be Thou My Vision” and Dave slightly cracking up, having trouble singing the last verse (“High King of Heaven my victory won. May I reach Heaven’s gates O bright Heaven’s Son…”) Apparently, he kept thinking about “hiking in heaven” and couldn’t get that picture out of his mind. I still think of that to this day.
One day we were praying the Psalm that says “Your lightning lights up the sky”, and Dave recalled the thunderstorm from earlier in the day when that very phenomenon had taken place. I guess you had to be there, but for us, it was a God moment.
Sometimes God puts special people in your life at just the right time. By the start of school that fall, I was on my way to sanity, healing and maybe a little greater humility. God’s work through my summer with Sommer helped to speed me on my way.