After a long hiatus, I am feeling prompted to write something for my blog. So much has changed in my life over the past 10 years. My kids have grown up. I have been out of the ministry for a long time now. I completed my MBA and several respected industry certifications, -formal education had always been a weak area for me; now it is a strength. I have found success in my secular career; they tell me I am an “executive” now. Having weathered various trials over the past decade, my marriage is the strongest it has ever been. Sure I am dealing with a few challenges here and there, but life is good. I am blessed and very fortunate.
I find myself surrounded by a new group of people. Friends, coworkers and neighbors who never knew me as “Pastor Eric” or the “300+ pound Eric.” It is interesting to think about that. I was recently introduced to a new employee at work with the phrase, “This is Eric Starkey, our CIO. He is a runner!” 300 pound Eric never dreamed of an introduction like that.
Times change and people change. While I am proud of myself for all the healthy changes I have made, I still miss friends and loved ones who I parted ways with on this journey. I still grieve over lost relationships and deeply miss old friends. The truth is change can often be like a deceptive mistress. She will lead you to the places that you want to go, but neglects to tell you what the full costs are.
So what’s next for me? What does a passionate former pastor, CIO, contemplative minded, theologically reformed, Jesus following, craft beer aficionado who is never satisfied with the status quo do with the rest of his life? What do you do when you are neither conservative or liberal, when you refuse to be on the Left or the Right, when you feel the grounding of the deep roots of church history, yet also embrace the mystery of things beyond our comprehension, when you refuse to “pick a side?” What do you do when your conscience will not let you fully adhere to any single minded group’s rigid doctrine?
I have had several friends and neighbors invite me to go to church with them. A few have even told me, “You can still drink beer and come to my church!” I smile and formulate a response to kindly and respectfully decline. But what goes through my mind is, “You don’t want me in your Sunday school class. I’ll probably fit right in and make some new friends. My wife and I usually mesh quite well in new groups. But just as we settle in, one Sunday morning a topic will come up where I will ask a question, or give a response to a question that pulls a thread on some ungrounded theological “truth” or political belief (from the Right or Left) held dearly by your church and denomination. And trust me, I am very good at pulling on those threads… What happens then?” At best it is an awkward moment and all our new friends see us “differently.” At worst there is confrontation. I am so tired of confrontation and debate. And, I am tired of losing friends due to trivial differences and stubborn pride.
So there you have it. Change. She brings you to places. She can be so good for you and give you exactly what you asked for -and what you really needed. But she can also be a fucking bitch who steals so much from you. And there’s no going back once you change. You can’t go back and you don’t want to go back. All you can do is allow yourself to feel the pain and grieve the loss because you know that is the only healthy way to get through it.
Then you move on, or at least you try to. You keeping asking the questions, where do I fit now? Where can I fit in and help? How do I help make this world a better place? How can I use my talents for good? What about that “calling” that is still in my heart, that I never walked away from but knew it was in the wrong wineskin? You keep your eyes open for opportunities and trust that when God is ready, He will show you what is next. You remind yourself to be very grateful. You made it through a tough journey without losing your wife or your kids. And you didn’t go bankrupt! You are in a so much better place now. Just chill out and wait. Keep your eyes open, always be looking and be careful not to miss the things right under your nose, but learn to wait. Learn to be grateful and wait.