I remember my first time answering this question of life sometime before I reached the first grade. I wanted to be a garbage man! The thought of being able to ride around all day hanging on the back of a moving truck enamored me. I don't remember interim choices until high school and my connection with mechanical drawing and being able to read and create engineering/architectural drawings. So, the natural draw was to build things and thus become an architect! Worked for me! Until an elevator accident the summer between my junior and senior years. The out-of-body-death experience changed all the rules and perceptions. I was to become a Priest in the Episcopal Church.
Thirty one years ago tonight, that became a reality at the hands of The Rt. Rev. Gray Temple in St. John's Episcopal Church in Florence, South Carolina. It's interesting pondering that fact today because all that I had thought would be in that role, has changed so dramatically over those 31 years! The first five years was just the excitement to learn and apply what had been taught or not taught in seminary classes. I was learning to be a new husband, a new father and be a priest all at the same exciting time.
Instead of just staying in one place and following a per-determined path, I became a Mission Planter, a builder of sorts and struck out on two ventures to start new worshiping communities, one in Tabb, Virginia and another in the Canton Township (Greater Detroit, Michigan) area. So the logic was that architectural skills and interests were to be part of my priesthood in building church buildings and supporting campus amenities.
The fact was that by the time I reached my second decade as a priest, I was learning that building buildings was not on the pallet. My time in Trussville, Alabama and Holy Cross taught me that! It was with the persistent encouragement of my wife that opened discerned means to study for my doctorate and possible other applications of my interest, skills and time. I have learned from some of the best! Arlin Rothauge, Peter Steinke, Ed Freedman, Lyman Coleman, Paul Wagner, Carl George, Edward Deming, John Maxwell, and a list of others. Maybe the bricks and mortar was to actually be people instead of buildings?!
So, along with continuing education from my wife as to how to become a better spouse, my three brilliant children as to how to keep up and become an engaged father, I also worked at becoming aware of people and the dynamics that come with motivating them, responding to their needs and the challenging role of leadership! No leader worth their salt want to be only taking a walk, but instead, wants to walk with the people that have entrusted their leader with their trust. It's not an easy balancing job, but it is exciting!
I learned even more lessons while expanding Grace, Georgetown, to larger numbers of people and the need to expand to two concurrent locations. Leadership is not always easy nor assured that it will be always understood.
What I realize today is that answering "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is not as easy as it seems! I do believe in vision, dreams, and goals, thus the question is important in development if not only to motivate and inspire people to look with hope and aspirations to a worthy goal and purpose in life. The recent movie, "Hugo" is a great story to point out the need for people to have and know a purpose in their life, and to not know or claim it, they flounder and are easily despaired. I have been one of the lucky ones!
I also realize that there is no end or diploma of completion when you get there, but that like life, the journey and exploration continues! I visited this morning with a good friend and retiree that said, " You know that I am retired and have absolutely no free time!" It can believe that with no doubt. The quest may start in a chosen or called direction but is constantly undergoing tweaks, and twists, and turns, or even reversals. Once again I find that it's not so much about the "doing" as it is about "being"!
I am happy for the 31 years I've invested in my vocation as a priest! I am sorry for the bumps, the bruises, the falls, the knocks, but I wouldn't trade the years for the births I've witnessed, the weddings I've officiated, the tender moments shared with those who trusted me with deep personal time and feelings, the ability to comfort those who have lost loved ones, and the joy of celebrations of the seasons of the church. The added benefit is that I have gotten to play with architectural dynamics in building buildings and clearing land, I've had the fun of abundant friendships and relationships that span this country and the world! I have learned to not hold on tight to some things, and to hold on dearly to relationships of ones that are dear to me.
What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be happy, loved and feel like I have offered my best. However I don't know if I'll ever grow up, God isn't through with me yet! As a reader that has endured to this point, I invite you to take the time and ask yourself the question of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and let your memories, experiences and creative license take you where you have been and where you are going, but more importantly, who are you, and who's are you? That is what really makes the passing of time and scenarios special and precious, or able to be let go to the ages. Maybe the question is better asked, "Who do you want to become if someday you feel grown up?!" It's the journey within that sets the stage for the successful journey outside in life!