Monday, May 27, 2013

"The last thing I ever wanted was to be a preacher"

The last thing I ever wanted to be was a preacher. I can remember wanting to be a lot of things. I had a great fascination with dinosaurs and space growing up. I'm sure at some point I wanted to be a paleontologist but I didn't really know that word back in second grade. Then I wanted to be an astronaut - that was my first big dream. However, I get motion sick when riding in the back seat of a car and science has been my academic downfall since grade school. The next big plan was archaeologist - but see the previous sentence and that science thing. Finally, I settled on being a writer. I loved, and still love, writing and reading. Pulp writers such as Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs have captured my fancy since my younger years. One of my father's greatest legacies has been passing these amazing authors and their books onto me. I wrote and wrote, and submitted and submitted. Alas, the only letters I received were ones of rejection.


In the midst of it all I met the love of my life and became a salesman. I remember telling her early in our relationship, "I'll do anything, but I never want to be a salesman." Funny how things work out isn't it? You have to understand, I'm shy, quiet and just not a people person. Somehow this turned into a successful career in sales. I've been doing it for almost 23 years now. That's right, for 40 hours a week I am a professional toilet salesman - a far cry from exploring the galaxy, studying ancient cultures and writing best-selling novels. However, in my wildest dreams, perhaps I would have called them nightmares then, I never imagined being a Baptist preacher.


I became an atheist in 11th grade, somewhere around 1986. I recall reading Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" and William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." I don't blame these books for leading me into atheism, but somehow, especially "Mythology", they did. I remember thinking how Jesus and the chronicle of the Bible were as much myth as the mighty heroes, gods and titans of ancient Greece. I wrote off any belief in the supernatural and embarked on my skeptical view of life.


I confess I remained rather conservative in my views. I classified myself as a Republican and was always staunchly pro-life. I never embraced evolution as it seemed to require too much faith as well. Understanding the origin of life and the universe could comfortably remain a mystery for me. A static universe seemed to be an acceptable theory, but honestly, I didn't ponder such things often.


I had a Bible that I always kept tucked back in my closet more out of nostalgia than any kind of faith. It had been given to me back in 1st grade during vacation Bible school at Tigert Methodist Church by a wonderful, elderly lady named Mrs. Freeze. Despite rejecting Christianity, I'd enjoyed that little old lady so much I could not bring myself to toss out that Bible she had given me. It would come back to haunt me one day.


It strikes me as strange - I've never achieved my greatest dreams. I never strapped myself into the seat of a space ship and rocketed through the earth's atmosphere into the cold depths of the solar system. I've never been on a dig at some ancient site of early civilization , or excised the bones of some prehistoric behemoth. I've never seen my name splayed across the glossy cover of a novel with "New York Times Best-Selling Author" under my name. I've sold a lot of toilets, tubs and faucets though. And the most unlikely thing? I've been preaching the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for six years now. How does an atheist toilet salesman with grandiose dreams of becoming a xeno-archaeologist novelist become a Baptist preacher? I'll have more on that next time...