I crashed emotionally when I was twenty-six years old. I had dried up inside, and I was lost and running. Let’s see if I can remember all I was doing: I was a full-time seminary student, head resident in the men’s dorm at a local Christian college—that was full time, too—and I was working part time as the area director for Young Life in a nearby city. I was also on retainer as a speaker for a Christian conference center. In addition, my personal life was a contradiction to much of what I was preaching.
I came back to my room at the dorm one evening so tired I went straight to bed at eleven o’clock. That’s early for a student living in a resident hall. Immediately I fell asleep and had a terrible nightmare. In the dream, I was backed into a corner by pale, ghoulish creatures who were plucking and tearing at my flesh, taking large chunks with each lunge. I awoke with a jerk and laid there for a while doing what I always do when I have a nightmare: I tried to talk myself back to reality. But I couldn’t, because the dream was reality. I finally had to get up, get dressed, and walk around the dorm for a while just to get over the terror I felt. Only then could I go back to bed and go to sleep.
When I awoke the next morning, I felt like I had a hangover. (At that time in my life, I knew what a hangover felt like.) But I hadn’t drunk anything the night before. To clear my head, I decided to walk over to the college track and go for a run. But when I got there, the gate was locked. I had climbed over the eight-foot fence many times, but this time it was just too much for me. If you would have seen me there that day you would have seen a young man bawling like a baby. The thought of one more thing to do was overwhelming.
When I stopped crying, I managed to climb over the fence and run for a while. My head a bit clearer, on my walk back to my room, I admitted to myself that I was in big trouble. The well was dry. I hadn’t taken a drink of God in only he knew how long. I quit almost everything I was doing, got some help, made some fundamental changes in my outlook, and got on the road to health. One could say that for the next season of my life I took a pick and shovel and dug down deep to where the water had once flowed. It took a lot of sweat and work and coming to terms with no small amount of regrets, deep pain, and frustration. That’s the way it usually is with repentance. But I thank God that I came to the point sooner rather than later; at twenty-six, instead of forty-six. For us in ministry, the stakes can only get higher as we get older and acquire more responsibilities.