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God = Impact
Dan Haupt, Madison, WI
God chose to bring me into this world on October 3, 1956. I was blessed to have two parents who believed in Jesus, and was baptized a few weeks after being born. And so began my journey in this world, and my relationship with God. My parents raised me with lots of love, and with a desire for me to know Jesus. They sent me to a Christian day school through grade six, and then through the traditional catechism instruction and confirmation process. I attended church with them pretty much every week. Life during those years seemed simple and good.
Fast forward a few years to age seventeen. I went off to college, and soon realized that I had spent my life up to that point trying to please others: parents, teachers, pastors, coaches, and friends. My identity consisted of trying to be a good son, a good student, a good athlete, and a good Christian. Being at college, I was now away from all the people I had worked so hard to please. My college years quickly turned into a quest to discover answers to two critical questions, "Who am I?" and "What do I really believe?" Looking back, I would describe this chapter in my life as my "prodigal son" years. I wiped the slate clean regarding my religious beliefs, even wondering, "Is there a God?". During this time, like the prodigal son, I squandered lots of time and money partying and doing things that were selfish and ungodly, although I never got to the point of eating pig‘s food. I seldom attended church, and struggled with my faith in God.
The quest for answers continued through my college years without much progress. Then God started to show up in my life in some big ways. In May 1978, right before final exam week of my senior year, one of my college roommates and I decided to visit his sister in a nearby city. It was Taco Tuesday. What could fit any better with a college student's budget than cheap food and beer? Before we knew it, it was bar closing time, and we were heading back to campus. Even when he was sober, my roommate was not a good driver. He had a bad habit of looking at people when he was talking to them rather than watching the road. That night was no different, and to make a long story short, he hit the shoulder, overcorrected, and off we rolled - once and then a second time ending up well off the road. It happened so quickly. I sat in shock, and then silence. It was pitch black and we were in the middle of nowhere. Realizing I was still alive, I slowly moved different parts of my body to see if anything was broken. Everything seemed fine. Then I wondered if my roommate was okay. The silence, even though only for a few seconds, was frightening. Finally, he said, "Dan, are you OK?" What a relief it was to hear his voice. As we crawled out of the car, I had one vivid thought - there really is a God, and he just performed one big miracle! Not only should neither of us have survived the accident, but neither of us had any broken bones or cuts. The next day we got to see the car. It was totaled, the top was smashed down and all the windows were shattered. God stepped into my life that night and made ONE huge IMPACT.
A couple of months later, God showed up in my life in another big way. My friend Paul had just quit his job as a silo builder because it was too dangerous. His new job would be working for a company that installed sewer pipe lines. The first day on the job, he was working in a trench when the walls collapsed, and he was killed. I received a phone call at work that morning. I sat totally numbed. Words cannot describe the emotions and thoughts that flooded my mind. I had just been to a movie with Paul the night before, and now I would never see him again. No, it couldn't be. Someone pinch me and wake me up from this bad dream! But it wasn't a dream. How ironic that Paul would quit a job because it was too dangerous, only to be killed on the first day of his new job. The circumstances were too bizarre for me to consider them fate. Why did God allow this to happen? Paul's death rocked a lot of people's worlds, including mine. It would be an understatement to say that God had my full attention that week. He taught me much about life, like how quickly it can change. He humbled me as all my feelings of invincibility evaporated. He also confirmed what he had taught me in the car accident - that our lives are in his hands, and our time is up when he chooses. Another thing I learned is that I should not take others for granted. And maybe the hardest lesson of all for me that week - he will not always answer my "why" questions. God stepped into my life that week and made ONE huge IMPACT.
A couple of months after Paul's death, God blessed me in a life-changing way. He introduced Renee Boughton into my life. There was something special about her - her genuine faith in Jesus. As we dated, I started to attend church again, slowly inviting the God I had learned about in my earlier years back into my life. Renee and I were married in 1982, and God began to bless us in many ways, including giving us three children. I would label the next chapter of my life, from 1982-1995 as "pursuing the American Dream". I worked long hours to advance my career, and spent four of those years earning an MBA. I equated being a good husband and father with being a good provider. I was driven by getting promotions, and changed jobs to move up the career ladder. My career was giving me status, identity, and enough money to keep us striving towards living the American Dream. We attended church and I served on some church boards, but I was far more religious than I was spiritual. I lived a pretty compartmentalized life - making time for God on Sunday mornings, and then putting him "on the shelf" during the rest of the week. In 1995, things came to a head. I was unhappy in my job, felt "trapped" by life, felt like a lousy husband and father, and was close to being spiritually dead. Attending church was doing nothing for me. I knew the worship services by heart, and often said the words without even thinking about them. Listening to the sermons, all I heard week after week was: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I would leave church feeling guilty and empty, and thinking "I'm just going through the motions" and "what a waste of time". In defense of the church I was attending, it wasn't their fault. It was my fault. I had a bad attitude and a hard heart. At this time in my life, I viewed God as distant, unloving, and somewhat irrelevant to life. I felt so desperate, and struggled for meaning and purpose in my life. Once again, in his infinite wisdom and perfect timing, God stepped in and rescued me through a series of events and circumstances.
In summer 1995, some friends invited me to a Promise Keeper's event in Minneapolis, MN. My experience when I attended church was to look around and see few men engaged in worship. In fact, they often looked like they wished they could be somewhere else. At the Promise Keepers event, I witnessed more than 50,000 men singing, praying, and even crying as we worshipped together. It was obvious to me that they genuinely wanted to be there, and that they were truly worshipping God. No one had forced them to come, and they weren't just going through the motions. There were also speakers at the event, and some of them talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus. What in the world were they talking about? Attending Promise Keepers had a significant impact on me. It blew up my bad attitude, softened my heart, and changed my thinking about men and worship, about God and who he is, and the seed was planted that I could have a loving and living relationship with Jesus. Another outcome of Promise Keepers is that it gave me the desire to study the Bible. Up to that point, I didn't study the Bible very much. Why would I if believed God was distant, unloving, and mostly irrelevant to life?
Shortly after the Promise Keepers event, a friend recommended that I read Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. It was through reading that book, that God dropped the scales from my eyes, penetrated my heart, and revealed some important things to me. What things? First, that Jesus died for MY sins. Intellectually, I knew that, but up to that point it had seemed generic rather than personal. How many times I had heard and read John 3:16 and other verses that talked about Jesus dying for the sins of the world. But at this very point in my life, my heart was convicted. I was a sinner, and it was my sins that put Jesus on the cross. The thought and feeling that Jesus would die for me, that he would take on the punishment for my sins, and that I am forgiven through him was overwhelming. His love broke through the hardness of my heart like water gushing through a broken dam. I shed many tears of joy and relief as Jesus became real and personal in my life. Certainly God and Jesus hadn't changed, but God helped me to see him and his Son in a whole new light. The second thing that God showed me through Experiencing God is that God desires a relationship with us - one that permeates all aspects of our life; one where we will surrender our hearts and submit to him. God wants to have a relationship with me? WOW! Knowing and believing that gives my life mission, purpose and adventure. God stepped into my life through events and circumstances to show me that Jesus is the ONE true LOVE.
After having those "aha" moments, I still had so much more to learn about God and myself. The book Experiencing God said that I would need to make sacrifices in order to follow God. What did that mean? It didn't take too long to find out. God had blessed Renee and me with a great family, I had an interesting and challenging job where I was making a six figure salary, we were living in our dream home, we were taking some fun vacations, and we had lots of nice stuff. Life was good, well except for one thing. I had this huge void inside of me. Something wasn't right. I was living the American Dream, and yet I wasn't content. About that time, the owners of the company I was running decided to sell the company. The buyer only wanted the technology, and not the people. So I began to look for a job. I felt God nudging me to apply for an Executive Director position with Prison Fellowship Ministry. They were excited to receive my resume, the interviews went well, and then they made me an offer. My heart sunk when I heard what the salary would be - about 70% less than my current salary. But I was still excited about the position, so Renee and I sat down to discuss it. Early in the conversation, she asked me a question that pretty much ended the discussion, "Can you show me a budget where that salary will provide for our family?" I couldn't do it, and declined the position. But that's not the end of the story. God had planted a seed for me to be in ministry, and Renee fully supported that direction. We sold our dream house, and bought a smaller house. I also started taking classes for the Lay Ministry program through Concordia Wisconsin. About three years after turning down the Executive Director position, my pastor called one day and asked if I would meet him for lunch. I was serving on the Board of Elders at the time, but we had never had lunch together. I wondered what was up. He dropped a bomb on me. Would I be willing to take a full-time position with the church as Director of Outreach? Guess what the salary would be? About 70% less than I was making at the time. God taught me two things that day: 1) he has a sense of humor, and 2) he is a God of grace - that is he is a God of second and third and fourth chances. He is always preparing us for what's next, and he never gives up on us. I went home to discuss the job offer with Renee. This time the question we considered was much different. Do we really trust God as our provider? The answer was, "No, but it's time for us to start". I took the position at the church, and God has more than provided for us since then. He is faithful to his promises! Did we have to make some sacrifices along the way? Others who know us would say we made huge sacrifices, but I don't think Renee and I really ever felt that way. God changed our desires and attitudes from wanting to live the American Dream to wanting to live for his mission. Because of the ONE LIFE that Jesus gave for us, we were blessed to receive the desire to change our LIFESTYLE for him.
There are many other stories in my life that I could share which would testify to how God has and continues to pour his love, grace, and blessings on us. I'll save those for another day. I want to close by saying I can't imagine life without God, life without a relationship with Jesus. I thank and praise him for never giving up on me, for revealing to me his deep love for me, and for the transforming IMPACT he has had in me and in my life. May he give me the passion and courage to connect others to life in Him so they too may experience Jesus and his transforming impact.
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