Back in the late ‘70s, times were different. I was searching spiritually in my life. I was young, impressionable, and was a member of a rock band. I didn’t have much direction with regards to a career or education after high school. I decided to enroll in a small school called Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio. I was a great student, and performed well academically. While I was going through the motions of life, my heart was beating for more spiritual reality. I met a group of friends who introduced me to Christ and my life changed. Following Christ made sense and it became the most important thing in my life — I knew that I wanted to give myself to the Lord wholeheartedly. This began by getting involved in campus ministry and making my spiritual growth my number one priority. My education, and everything else, took a back seat. I didn’t have anyone around me telling me my education was important, or that I should develop other skills and experience. I was content to grow and be recognized as a leader in my church and community, and decided to make that a full-time job.
I met the girl of my dreams in 1979 and we got married shortly thereafter. We left our home in Ohio and made a big move to Maryland to start a new journey. Maryland was home for us for 13 years. I was fully-engaged and using everything I had in my toolkit related to my talents. It was combined with my passions and it didn’t feel like work — it felt like I was living the dream.
As I reached mid-life, I began to question some of the decisions I had made in my 20s — perhaps I got on the “wrong bus” in terms of my career and using my talents. Although great things happened, I felt like I followed someone else’s flight plan for my life and not my own.
In 1995, the wheels of the wagon were coming off so to speak — there were changes in the church, and I couldn’t put my heart into it anymore. I felt very lost and I knew I couldn’t live an authentic life and continue on this path. Fear filled my mind as I began thinking about doing something different. I wrestled with several tough questions that shook me to the core — Do I have any skills? Do I have what it takes? How does the world even work? What’s the next step? Is there a next step? I lived in the seclusion of my non-profit world and really questioned whether or not I could make it outside of my comfortable bubble. My wife stayed at home teaching our children (who were 11 and 9 at the time), and we lived in an expensive county in Maryland. Things really started to take a turn for the worse — I was so anxious and depressed that I could barely get out of bed. I was visibly shaken, an absolute mess, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. For someone who made their whole life talking about God and with God, I seemed so incredibly lost.
Fortunately, there were no drugs or addictions — except the addiction of wanting to feel like I could do something of value and provide for my family. There was a sense of “letting go” in spite of my entire professional career. I was starting over. As I sat and talked to a counselor, I remember the illustration of being on a trapeze and having to let go to catch the next swing or ladder. When you let go, there are moments of free-falling. I was in that state and it turned me inside out. I remembered Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away” — it was all about breathing. Just keep breathing. I knew had to keep getting out of bed and take baby steps.
When I was 40 years old, I started sending out resumes for the first time for a professional job without a lot of hope. I sent one resume to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra — they were looking for an audience development manager. I knew nothing about classical music, and didn’t care really care for it (even though I was a musician). For some miraculous reason, out of nearly 200 resumes, the director of marketing picked my resume out and looked at my experience working in Howard County. Our church was successful by most definitions — thriving and growing — which is important since only two out of 10 people would attend any place of worship on Sunday. I suppose the director of marketing thought, “if he can get a unchurched area to come to church, maybe he can help encourage people to come to the symphony.” I remembered “baby steps” on the day of my interview — just get to the parking lot, find a spot, get to my interview, sit there and talk coherently to a hiring director. After my first interview, they asked me back. I brought in a marketing plan — silly now, but it was an attempt to say, “give me a shot at this.” I ended up being a perfect fit and they offered me the job. As it turns out, I did have transferable skills and something to offer that was helpful to others. I slowly started gaining confidence even though I wasn’t making much money. I had great success there and things were stable. You never know how one unlikely character is going to be used in your life and directed by God.
Looking back, the biggest part of my healing process was taking baby steps, getting back in the saddle, and riding. I just used what I had — I knew I didn’t have college degrees and real world experience, but I have always been a big believer in giving what you have and everything will be okay. I always remember Matthew 14:16-21 when Jesus fed 5,000 with so little. I’m not the most talented person in the world, nor do I have the most credentials, but I have just enough for God to work with to bless and multiply.