Has your path ever crossed with someone famous, or with someone who was just the right person at the right time? I call these my "Forrest Gump Moments." In the film, Forrest's life intersects with various famous people, like JFK, LBJ (President Lyndon B. Johnson, not Lebron James!), John Lennon, and others. Here are other examples where, at the opportune time, Forrest met fame:
- Forrest simulates a dance move for a young musician who's staying at the Gump Boarding House. The young man copies Forrest's hip-gyrating move. His name? Elvis Presley.
- Forrest looks out his high-rise hotel window to watch a break-in of some rooms across the way. He calls the police, who arrest the burglars ... at the Watergate office of the DNC, which began the fall of President Nixon.
- While running in the middle of nowhere, a pack of devotees follow Forrest, asking him questions. One asks for inspiration for a T-shirt design. Forrest wipes his face on an old T-shirt and hands it to him ... with the grimy imprint of the now famous "smiley face."
Serendipity or Sovereignty?
I've had my own "Forrest Gump moments," and one came to mind this morning. Let me take you back to my younger days, when I'd graduated from UW and was working with CCC at the University of Minnesota ...
I didn't yet own a car ... so I bummed rides to Church every Sunday. Being new to Minneapolis, I wasn't sure which church to attend, so I went wherever my friends went. One Sunday, my roomie (Steve M.) and his trusty car (Plymouth Horizon!) transported us to a nearby church in a lower-middle class neighborhood.
The church had a massive pipe organ and a young pastor. He had a pointy nose, John-Lennon-style-wire-rim glasses, and a full-length black robe (not my cup of tea). His speaking style was vanilla. His message, however, was solid -- though unimpressive. When the service concluded, I heard that the pastor conducted a Bible study in his home that was open to visitors. I was intrigued, so a few days later I went to his home (I forget how I got there, since I didn't own a car).
I remember ringing the doorbell of his modest home in a lower-income neighborhood. The pastor's wife greeted me cordially ... I was the first person to arrive. She told me to make myself at home while she attended to other duties. I noticed their home had a lot of bookcases (even in the hallway)! I'm a book-guy, so I began investigating the volumes and saw a pattern: many books were written by or about Jonathan Edwards. Hmm. A tad esoteric, I thought, but a sign this pastor was historically rooted and intelligent.
Eventually, a dozen others arrived for the Bible Study. We sat in folding chairs arranged in a semi-circle, in the sunroom off their living room. The young pastor sat at the head of the semi-circle and he handed out an article he'd written for a Christian magazine. I forget the title, but it was something like: Christian Hedonism. Needless to say, a rather provocative title. He asked us to read the article silently for 10 minutes, then have a group discussion.
Perhaps you've already guessed my Forrest Gump friend? I was a 23-year old sitting in the home of a very young John Piper. I don't recall much else from that meeting, except at one point I asked John a question: "Don't you think that God is most glorified in us, when we're most satisfied in Him?"
Haha, just kidding. I didn't ask that question, but everything else in the story is true. By the way, that article we read ... it was the seed-thoughts to John's future bestselling book, Desiring God.
Why do I share this? Because, in a strange way, I don't think I was at John and Noel Piper's home by accident. I believe God orchestrates the events of our lives, and occasionally, he surprises us with unusual moments that steer the trajectory of our lives. Needless to say, this encounter cemented my interest in the things he later wrote.
Years later, while visiting my boyhood home in Wauwatosa, WI, I took my young family to Mayfair Mall. We sat in a Barnes and Noble bookstore, examining the countless book displays and shelves. I meandered into the Religion section and spotted a thin, red paperback by someone named Piper. I picked it off the shelf, ordered some coffee, and sat down to read the Introduction. I was hooked. I couldn't put the book down. I wanted to swallow it whole.
It has become my favorite book by John Piper, entitled Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. I commend it to your reading list, as it will engender a passion within you for Jesus.
Next time, I'll pivot from this joyous story to a difficult and enduring trial that the Piper's find themselves in ... and the warning it offers to American Christians to pursue Jesus, before the night goes dark.