I believe it was Will Shonfelt’s blog that I gave my sentiment on not having a defined date of changing, but that it’s small changes and growth over time, until one day, piece by piece, you have left the old you behind completely. It’s funny to me that that was my first thought when sitting down to write this blog about Dave as well (and it's not just because of Dave's long hair). I rarely can remember the very first interaction that I have with someone that I met over a decade ago, but I do remember the first time I met Dave. It was in the top room of the pool house at Tyson’s parents’ house back when he was unmarried and it was a bachelor pad of sorts. We used to meet there for accountability as young teenagers, and I remember Will brought his younger brother Dave, who was probably twelve at the time, to these meetings. I remember having conflicted thoughts, “Why is he here, he’s only twelve! He’ll probably blab everything we say to his mom,” as well as, “I’m so glad I’m not the youngest one here anymore.” Of course, this is the depth to which I thought at the high and mighty age of fourteen. We’re both older now at twenty-two and twenty-five, and as I sat and listened to Dave when we met, I recalled this memory of a twelve-year-old kid that had been brought by his older brother to that upper room, and I had a different thought this time, “Man. Look at what God has done.” The wisdom and perspective coming from this now twenty-two-year-old as he discussed his life and how he’s become who he is now was both encouraging and humbling.
Most everyone wonders what we are going to talk about at these Spotlight Blog dinners, and to be honest, I never know. I may have some questions prepared, but I never really know where the conversation is going to go. So, when we met with Dave, we spent a lot of time talking about the usual stuff. I got to learn about what life is like at the guys house now, his job at the coffee shop, and a surprising amount about Dungeons and Dragons, which I could write a whole other blog on. But what really struck a chord with me when we talked, was what it was like for him growing up. He used the very specific words of, “…a mix of pain and gracious love.” Dave spent the majority of his life living in Thomaston, Georgia, with his mom and stepdad, as well as four other siblings (himself being the youngest). I’m sure that we can all imagine what it’s probably like to be the youngest of five. There’s probably a lot of teasing and noogies (the art of grinding ones knuckles into the top of another’s head). He was also home schooled, which he really struggled with. Left to his own devices, prioritizing school was extremely difficult and he quickly developed a hate for learning, fell behind, and had to scramble to finish. I bring this up because I think it’s so cool how people’s perspective and attitude can change based on different experiences and circumstances. Dave just finished up another semester of school, and now only has one year left until he completes his associates in business. He admittedly never wanted to go, and Tyson practically dragged him to visit colleges. Since choosing a school, Dave has had the exact opposite experience he had with homeschooling, and is doing well in college and really enjoying it. He’s putting in a ton of effort, both working a job to afford it, as well as taking the time to be diligent and make good grades; he’s not just skating by for a piece of paper. He’s found that he actually enjoys learning now based on the experiences that he’s had, whereas before, he would break out in hives when looking at math equations. And that’s not the only area he’s grown in through his college experience. All throughout our discussion there was a theme that came up over and over again about his interaction with his classmates. Dave’s personality, specifically in the area of confidence, has grown as well. I heard a psychological theory the other day, that as kids, the personality we develop is based mostly on the foundation of survival, a defense mechanism of sorts. Examples would be becoming a jock to fit in, or the funny guy to alleviate social pressure, or becoming a recluse to avoid others. We all know those people in high school that when we think back, we say to ourselves, “Man that guy was a jerk.” And you know what? He probably was a jerk back then, however, he may not be a jerk now. It’s very possible that this person developed a jerk personality as their defense mechanism. Some of you reading might be thinking, “Yeah, I was the jerk.” But over time, as we leave those teenage years behind, those pieces of our personality start to leave as well, as they are no longer needed to “survive” those social situations. We really start to become who we actually are. Of course, this didn’t come straight from the mouth of John Piper so it probably isn’t true, but the connection I am making is how college gave Dave the opportunity to start to break out of his shell a little bit. The confidence he started to build in his ability to learn and interact in these new social situations has deeply affirmed his abilities and personality. We started to connect this when he discussed initiating study groups with classmates or hanging out with other guys he never would have before, playing D&D. He’s created a lot of strong relationships and memories through his time in college so far, and he would tell you that just because you’ve had a bad experience before, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. A different set of circumstances can completely alter one’s perspective.
One thing that becomes evident about Dave after you’ve talked with him awhile, is that he has a genuine heart for people. He’s always had an attitude of service and stepping up to the plate to help even if he has zero experience in the area he’s serving in. Just think about it. Do you think he’s going to school for an audio engineering degree? Heck no! But that didn’t stop him from taking the time to learn how to work the sound board to make all of the music sound good. And he’s not just doing it just to do it. He is really invested in it and wants to make it the best it can be. There are plenty of times where Dave is legitimately concerned that we will make those who sit closer to the front go deaf, and so he is always testing the levels to make sure that the music can serve you guys the best way possible. Dave also records and edits our podcasts, which took some time and training as well. He saw a need, and without any prior experience, he stepped up and learned what was necessary to fill that need and serve the church. He put it pretty perfectly during our discussion when he said, “There are plenty of jobs that need to be done, but rarely is it the most qualified person who usually fills them, but after some time, they become the most qualified person to do the job.” This mentality is evident through his work with the Serve Senoia Events. The elders saw the passion in Dave to serve, and so they recommended him to serve on the Senoia planning committee for the events. Dave had a total prior experience equaling the equivalent of zero when it comes to sitting in a room with an events team trying to figure out the logistics of an event. The point I am making here is that Dave is great example of being servant hearted to the point of doing whatever it takes to make things better and to serve others. Very often we get caught up in wanting to serve in ways that fit with the skills we already have. That isn’t a bad thing, I don’t need to start singing to add a new vocal range to the band, but could there be areas where we could serve or have a more open heart to service even if it isn’t in our specific area of talent? I think he said it best during our time together, “I go to church to serve, not to be served.” This statement certainly had an impact on me, as I double checked my heart to make sure I had the right attitude and perspective about my service.
I mentioned earlier that Dave said that growing up was a mix of pain and gracious love. Dave has gone through a lot of hard experiences, which is partly why I think he has so much wisdom at his age. It’s hard to not just quote him directly for the majority of this blog because most of what he said is very true. He talked a lot about his perspective on trials and how we all go through them, and that in time, God will bring you through them, and God’s purpose is for you to learn and grow through those to become who He wants you to become. God will always give you what you need. And so, when he was asked what had the biggest impact on his life growing up, he said that the people that surrounded him have had the biggest impact on him. Having godly counsel, being around other believers, and just enjoying fellowship have grown him the most into becoming who he is now, and has caused him to want to have a big impact on others. I think that this perspective is evident in his desire to serve others and work towards the betterment of everyone he comes into contact with. I was so encouraged by the end of our talk. To see the work that God has already done in Dave’s twenty-two years, and to know that He will continue to do a good work makes me very excited as well as very humbled to know that we as a church are benefiting from this work that God has done, as he continues his selfless acts of service for us and those he comes in contact with.