I’m really struggling with David Powlison’s passing. I didn’t know him nearly as well as so many others did, but I had a few encounters with him that embossed themselves on my soul. One of them, in particular, has stayed with me whenever I think about what I’m writing.
David was the first person to ever give me personal feedback on something I’d submitted for publication. I wrote a two-part article on giving words of counsel and submitted it to the Journal of Biblical Counseling, of which he was the editor. I was nervous, apprehensive, and, frankly, scared of what someone in the real world would actually say of my writing. So I meandered through the upper corridors of the CCEF building (it’s a maze up there) with tension in my muscles. How badly had I come up short? Had I said anything worth remembering? Was this the moment I would find out that I really was sub-par as a writer, that my dreams were high above my abilities? I sat down in a chair across from his desk in a dimly lit room. A smile of welcome stretched naturally across his face and under his eyes.
“Rollicking horses,” he said with his smile un-phased. I didn’t follow. “Your writing, Pierce—it reminded me of rollicking horses.” No one had ever told me what my writing was like, much less suggested an image for it. I had (and have) a tendency to string together rhythmic phrases, parallel forms that stomp after one another . . . like rollicking horses, apparently. I loved the image, and I can’t describe how happy I was in that moment to hear that someone who knew about the world and the weight of words thought that my writing wasn’t garbage.
Now that David has gone into glory, I hope he’ll run into my father, whom I lost when I was 18, and receive thanks for that encouragement. The older I get, the more I see that encouragement is a spiritual gift almost unequaled in power. It does SO much for someone who’s doubting and dreading.
As I pray for David’s family and friends, I’m grateful to count myself among the thousands (maybe even millions) who have been blessed by his sage-like wisdom and thoughtfulness.
“We’ll miss you, brother. But we’ll see you soon.”