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I Never Dreamed

 David Alan Black 

Change is a fact of life. Iíve always seemed to live smack dab in the middle of it.

When I was a teenager in Hawaii, I never dreamed of leaving the Islands. But in 1971 I did just that. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. For it was at Biola that I discovered my calling Ė and met my future wife.

After Becky and I were married, I never dreamed we would pack our bags and leave for Switzerland in 1980. Studying for a doctorate in Europe was just way too expensive. But God made a way.

In 1998, God moved us from La Mirada, California, where we had lived for 27 years, to the tobacco fields of Granville County, North Carolina so that I could teach at Southeastern. I never dreamed I would leave SoCal. We loved it at Biola. But God had other plans.

In 2001 we bought our farm in Virginia. I never dreamed we would raise our own beef and grow our own vegetables and begin a retreat ministry. But we did.

When Becky was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2009, I never dreamed that I would one day be without her. But God had other plans. Becky went home in 2013, and Iíve been alone ever since.

When I began the spring 2020 semester, I never dreamed that a virus would upset all of my plans. I couldnít have been more floored. No face to face classes? No lecturing at Princeton? No mission trip to Asia? No marathon in June? No surfing in Hawaii?

And when the fall 2020 semester began, I never dreamed that this would be my last year of fulltime teaching. Alas, institutions of higher education werenít immune to the economic pressures of Covid.

The lesson? God may not change, but he uses change to change us.

And so, once again, the Lord is changing the trajectory of my life. And Iím okay with that. All of the changes I described above transformed me as a person, influencing what I believe, how I live, where I am going. None of it was accidental. God used each unexpected ďI never dreamedĒ moment to expose my dependence on him and to develop my character. With every twist and turn, what I saw was good, just good in a way I did not always want, hope for, or imagine. But while I have no power to control my circumstances, I do have the power to determine how I will respond and whether or not I will trust God.

Forty-four years of teaching is a gift I didnít and donít deserve. And my, oh my, did it go by quickly. Itís been a love story all the way Ė one about growth and redemption and failure and success and giving grace and receiving it. Itís been full of surprises, not least the undeserved blessings of being given a chair and two Festschriften. This is the thing: The journey isnít over yet. Iím not one who believes that Christians ever truly step away from the Lordís service. I may be retiring from fulltime teaching, but Iím not retiring from my calling or my vocation. My priorities wonít dramatically change. I plan to continue living a life of purpose, service, and equipping wherever God places me. The school is graciously allowing me to maintain an office on campus, teach classes as the need arises, and continue to supervise theses and dissertations. Iíve also decided to write a best-seller: How to Retire Wild, Jolly, and Carefree in Hawaii. I predict that we Baby Boomers are going to redefine retirement. Itís time for more risk, more exploration, more change, not less. Besides, my kids wonít tolerate any moping.

During this final year of fulltime teaching I hope for some pretty specific fruit (just warning you, young íuns.) I pray that

  • Jesus will become supreme in your lives Ė not your pastor or your church or even your families. Not a method or a certain style of music or a program, but Christ himself.

  • You will take ownership of your own maturity and not expect others to do all the heavy lifting for you.

  • You will become fulltime missionaries and in fulltime Christian service until Jesus returns.

  • You will, on a practical level, be fully committed to pursuing radical obedience to the commands of Christ regardless how much pushback you get from others.

  • You will realize that relationships are of utmost importance.

  • You will not be sidetracked by denominational or national politics.

  • You will avoid becoming slick, packaged, or phony. Authenticity still matters.

  • You will pursue the downward path of Jesus with all your heart.

Well, itís been an honor to serve the Lord at Southeastern. Iíve loved my time here! As I retire from fulltime teaching, I can accept that there are things I hoped to do that I will never do because there are things Iíve done that I could never have imagined doing. And just like the hope that sustained me through Beckyís loss, the hope that Jesus brings during times of transition can bring wholeness to my life.

To Danny Akin and the entire administration at Southeastern: When I think of you, I think of the verse that says, ďWhat do you have that you did not receive?Ē (1 Cor. 4:7). I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities you gave me to succeed in my calling long past my ďofficialĒ retirement age of 66. I thank you from the depths of my heart.

To my faculty colleagues: Thank you for letting me be me and for supporting me on bright and cloudy days. You made me a better teacher and a better person.

To my students: So much love to you all. I never dreamed I would have had the privilege of teaching you all these years. I will never, ever, ever take for granted the time I spent with you.

Last, but certainly not least: Thank you, Jesus, for being both Lord to be obeyed and Savior to bestow blessing. Of course, itís not enough just to say ďthank you.Ē I pray that I may continue to pour out my life in service to you Ė the one who loved me and gave himself for me because he loved others more than he loved himself. 


September 3, 2020

David Alan Black is the editor of

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