I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Literally. Two highways intersect there to form a four-way stop. If not for that you would pass right on through. Its one of those little towns you think of when listening to a John Mellencamp song. I lived within four miles of where I was born, including my residence, my entire 1st through 12th grades of public school,and my church. My entire universe was centered around this part of the world.
I can still recall my best friend John and I (we were neighbors) riding our bicycles from our houses to the downtown area, and riding all over the sidewalks and secret trails behind buildings that only we knew. We would walk the streets some days, picking up coca cola bottles or dr. pepper. You could take those to the local grocery store where they would pay you a dime for each bottle you brought in. We absolutely could not figure out as 12 year olds why someone would just through them out the window, but we were glad they did. We would collect enough money to buy us a coke apiece, a package of gum and maybe some of those pop rocks that we heard if you drink with coke your stomach would blow up and you would die. My friend John was a tester of life. Not afraid of anything. I still remember him eating three packages of those things and chasing them down with an entire coke, just daring the damn things to do anything. I set on the bench next to him in front of the store, waiting for his stomach to explode. Nothing. I was sort of disappointed, but a little glad all the same.
I went to the small United Methodist Church my whole life too. My whole perception of God and church was formed there. It wasn't too bad. It was small town values and routine that formed some of my personality. You could count on the Doxology, the same three or four hymns, and the newest out of seminary pastor trying to get these old people off their asses and do something for Jesus. It was amusing. I recall my confirmation class, which consisted of exactly two of us. And we weren't really willing, we were forced. Yes, forced religion on the two of us by our mothers. So we went, did the thing, got baptized, and moved on. Didn't seem to make any difference to either one of us, but it did our mothers. I was the youth leader, and for a while I had some kids coming to it. Not really for spiritual purposes, but the church in their wisdom had given me a key, so I set up a pool table in one of the non used classrooms (there were many of those) and we put a stereo in there and hung out. Seemed safe enough, hanging out playing pool in God's house while listening to Black Sabbath on the turntable.
I was fairly content there. My world was safe. Everyone knew everyone. Andy Griffith could have been our sheriff. But sometimes, when I was alone, I felt as if something was missing. I was not quite complete. That for whatever reason, this life I was in wasn't really who I am. It was hard to explain or even internalize. I felt, even though I was okay where I was, I wasn't okay with WHO I was. I felt out of place, like I just didn't fit in. The things my friends were obsessed with really didn't interest me a whole lot. I hung out, went to concerts, drank beer on the Dairy Queen parking lot, cruised the streets, all that jazz, and still something, out there was calling to me.
I got that same feeling again last week at work. I was standing in front of my office building watching people come and go ... and I thought "who am I?". Who is this person I have become with a nice tie and slacks and title? What will it all mean in 50 years anyway? And I wonder if others have this thought as well, or are most people content with the roles they play in life? I'm convinced there is more out there, just beneath the surface of our facades we call life. Just past the daily routines and golf games and business deadlines and rules and regulations, there is something stirring just beneath the surface of humanity. Something wanting to scream out "This is not who you are supposed to be!", and there is more too all of this than what you have made of it.