Ever thought you’d be a star? Maybe not a big star [like Hollywood or Hall of Fame in sports or even, sigh, politics?] Still. A star?
I approached that once. Yep, when I signed up to be a “senior minister to be,” after serving a parish for 2 years—the agreement, signed and sealed—then I would become “the head guy.” Was young, brash and probably my heart was dwarfed by my ego. Humility didn’t reign. But the rain did. The agreement to rotate Sundays preaching was dashed after my first sermon when I was told by the reigning minister that he would decide the preaching schedule “from now on.” NO! Well, it was his YES and that stuck. His reign led to my rain. Wasn’t good for the profile to leave one month after the start. So, I didn’t. But, the big dream had a wake-up call.
Then I read a book that said very energetic and creative people died before their 38th birthday. Saw myself as “one of those” so figured, at the age of 30 I better get to gettin.’ When there were 39 candles on my cake I figured the self needed a new definition.
And so it went. From big star to not even a spark. Then. A resurgence. The nets started to fill. Then, it hit. I was not in ministry for self-serving. I was not in ministry to be in a large church. But, I did learn and shared it with clergy when I arrived in conference ministry, “Boys and Girls, if you have anything to say about it, choose your predecessors well.” Plus, “Know on the calendar, but even more in living, you cannot jump from Palm Sunday to Easter.”
No less, even in retirement, there IS purpose in living. There IS purpose in my living. To focus on others, and to never turn my back or close my ears or shut my eyes to others, even those I meet on an airplane or on a fishing trip.
In all this, I remember people who believed in me…I remember Louis Ruotolo, a former Catholic Priest, a Teaching Assistant in writing at Stanford, who urged me to play professional baseball, if for perhaps one reason…I had the same initials as Mickey Mantle. Ah, his confidence far exceeded my skills in snapping a fast ball low on the outside corner. Or Fred Trost, who to this day is still my mentor, who always believed in me and has always “been there.” And to my parents who always said to my efforts, “Never quit efforting.” Or something like that. And to my sons who never left me through a divorce. And to Diane, who battles the pain and yet brings support and comfort, even when my pain is diminutive. And to current friends, you know who you are, who to this day, encourage me and appreciate my thoughts…at least sometimes!
But through it all…the most important. And it is today. The very most important. Which makes it important-est. My God. I would probably prattle it out, so I will lean on a new source of courage and making sure the windshield is larger than the rear-view mirror: Tom Ehrich, who this morning ends his reflection and starts my day, this day, Thursday, April 27, 2017, with words that never dwarf my life and its purpose and its future, whatever that may be. A future that didn’t end on my 38th birthday.
“Whether or not I have been the big star I hoped I would be, I have been blessed beyond measure. I am grateful to God for freedom, for family, for an inquiring mind and discerning heart, for the good people who cross my path, even when I leave them behind, and for the struggles, the conflicts, the ugliness through which God led me.”