Wednesday, November 18, 2009

People I'm Thankful For, Vol. 1: David Herndon

Being the season for giving thanks (historical accounts notwithstanding), I wanted to use this blog to simply give thanks for those folks who have made my life what it is (and hopefully, by doing so, combat the hardness of my own heart).

Today, I'm giving thanks for my friend David Herndon. I actually meant to do this on his birthday a couple of weeks back, but you know how life is....

I can say without exaggeration that David played a huge part in saving my life. He and I met as freshmen at Reinhardt College in 1997, and I can't quite remember how we came to hang out so much, but by the end of Fall quarter, we were making plans to start a band (though "duo" is a more accurate description). It was a great time for me.

But more than hanging out and playing guitar in our dorm rooms, I was drawn to David by his own passionate pursuit of Jesus. And not the stuffy, meek and mild Sunday School Jesus with little lambs and small children - the real, still-doing-stuff Jesus who was much bigger than all my old childhood lessons. Having grown up in church, I knew all those stories, but somehow I had still come to think of God as some sort of spiteful judge waiting to smite me when I screwed up. He seemed to like smiting for some reason.

I don't think that came from my experiences at church growing up, but until college, I had never really considered that Jesus could be someone other than a guilt trip trying to kill my buzz. 

At least until I met David.

In David I saw someone who was searching for the truth of who Jesus was, beyond all the stories, all the anecdotes, all the information and misinformation. Though firm in his convictions, he was not trying to push a theology or dogma or anything like that on anyone. He was simply trying to figure out as best he could what his life would look like if he knew more and more deeply the real Jesus.

And somewhere deep in my own core, I wanted the same thing. High school was an especially weird time for me, and I felt angry for most it. I'm still not sure what about. But it made things hard at home, and when you factor in my own air of knowing it all - as 17 and 18 year olds can be prone to developing - I was a rain cloud always hovering around somewhere. I wasn't content - not with myself or my life.

Because of David's search for Jesus, I too began looking for him. I began to ask some real questions, things like, "Do I believe all this stuff because I've been brainwashed as a child, or is this for real?" Questions I think we all need to ask of ourselves. 

And as I sought answers to these questions,I began to let go of the ideas I had set forth for my life - what it would look like, all the things I wanted to have, etc. And in large part because of those experiences, I started a record label hoping to help artists make some sort of positive impact on our culture. Ultimately, I gave my life over to this man, this conundrum, this Jesus, who I had begun to see and know in my own life. 

After our first summer of college, I followed David down to work at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island as a camp counselor, partly because it seemed fun, but mostly because hanging out with David all summer sounded better to me than going back to Eatonton and doing, um, something, I guess. 

And that's the summer I met the lovely Jana Dalelio, who I would marry four years later. Who would then bear my two children. You get the drift.

David has been my among my greatest cheerleaders, offering me the kind of unconditional support and encouragement that I needed during the Rebuilt years. He is much smarter than me, which helps, and I have never hung out with him and not been challenged in some way to deepen my own faith. His songwriting is probably my greatest musical influence, and his last Rebuilt record, Into Danger/Out of Rescue, is to me a masterpiece. He has never tried to use his gifts to make himself famous or rich or whatever but has always been an example to me of someone who sought to become the greatest he could be by trying to serve others. 

I know this is kind of a gushy, rambling discourse, but David Herndon is someone whose fingerprints are indelibly pressed upon my life. And he wasn't trying to do all these things through our friendship - he was simply trying his best to see the truth of who Jesus said he is, and by doing so, the very direction of my life was changed forever. 

I don't get to see David nearly enough anymore, but those years we spent traveling around south Georgia in his Civic hatchback are like gold to me. 

I am thankful for David Herndon. Who are you thankful for?

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