We all get a wild hair from time to time. Some more than others. Dan Allender has a head full of them. Trust me, it’s a good thing.
Rarely in life do you encounter an individual that makes you bristle with insecurity but comforts you, somehow, simultaneously. I had such an experience recently attending a conference led by Dr. Dan Allender. The wild-haired, wild-eyed, middle-aged Christian therapist sort of reminded me of my own dad, which no doubt contributed to my personal sense of intrigue. I’m confident, however, that the resonation ran deeper than even that.
It seems to me that in life we are often given simple answers to complicated problems, causing most of us to wonder if there even is an answer to our questions. The platitudes offered to the depths of our unease are unsatisfactory. Often, my conviction is that we may be asking the wrong questions altogether. I crave a reset button that will help me process life experiences differently — more substantially.
As Dr. Allender led us through complex content on story, narrative, redemption, and tension, I was a little fearful that as I pulled back the layers of my own personal onion of emotions it might expose something I hadn’t considered before. Still, I was persuaded to do it because at least it would be the truth.
The conference lasted less than 24 hours, and I took the host’s advice and didn’t write a single thing down. I didn’t jot a single note. I just listened and daydreamed and tried to get started with the heavy lifting of what it means to really know my story, offer the good and bad parts to God, and embrace the reality that it’s still being written. I left the conference with very few conclusions other than I needed to purchase the audio and listen to it all a second time around — this time taking copious notes.
I read one of Allender’s books on the plane ride to the event, and I left with plans to read the others. He’s just so Jesus-y, mixing tales of his brokenness with uncomfortable yet beautiful portrayals of his redemption. He’s the kind of guy I imagine would make many Christians uncomfortable, and I like that about him, because I need to be made uncomfortable. Any educational expert knows that it is this disequilibrium that creates an environment where we learn.
If our stories are still being written, then we still have much to learn. Perhaps the problem with most of us is we stop learning.
Perhaps we stop learning because we crave and cling to comfort at all costs — even the cost of our own stories.
The one conviction I did leave with is that this stranger, Dan Allender, was one of those conference speakers that you depart from having not only understood, but also feeling like they understood you. In this way, even though you never meet them personally, you feel like you consider them a friend. I’ve got a short list of folks like that — artists like Andrew Peterson and authors like John Grisham and others in spaces of life where I’ve had occasion to dabble. When you feel like someone just gets you, you want them to invest more into you.
Dan Allender is probably not for everyone, or perhaps not everyone is for Dan Allender. If you want to play it safe, steer clear. If you want to write a great story with your life, settle in for the ride. Get a wild hair once in a while.
Or at least get to know the man with the head full of them.