I left professional ministry several years ago. Leaving behind the daily responsibilities and rituals of ministry, began a personal journey involving an opportunity to review the question, “Who am I really?” Its not that, while formally engaged in the profession, I consciously awoke each morning and told myself “You are a minister today.” I didn’t. In fact I remember just the opposite. I remember feeling more uncomfortable with the title than that the shoe fit. When introduced in social situations I often felt compelled to offer some disclaimer to the introduction. I would say something that I hoped would separate me from what I imagined to be the other’s unflattering association with one bearing the title. “I’m still a fun guy” or “I can party down as well as anyone else,”I would think, even if I didn’t actually utter the words. Its not that I consciously sought validation from the job to define my spot in the universe, or how I could actually draw a salary for doing something that I so thoroughly loved.
The French called it raison d’étra or one’s reason for being. It seems to be a common human experience to asks, “Why am I here? Why do I take up space on this planet?” It is also common for persons to associate purpose and meaning with roles that they assume even for a short time, and when those roles vanish, to wonder “why am I here … now?” Such quandary grows more prominent as we grow older and seem to be passed by for everything meaningful. Unless we morph our, career long, reason for being into something more appropriate to our current station in life, we find a creeping since of doubt and depression eating away at the fabric of life
This is so for a number of my friends who have chosen mass transit as a retirement career. There is a definite satisfaction in helping others get to work or appointments or simply get from one point to another in their daily bustle. It does seem that bus drivers have a helpful role in our suburban society, even in the canyon country of Colorado’s Western Slope. When one lives in Fruita, the gateway to Utah on I-70 west of Grand Junction and works in Palisade, nestled at the foot of Mount Garfield and the Grand Mesa, east of the small city, and has no car, the bus is the common denominator. Even youth live on the opposite end of the Grand Valley from their school of choice and must take the bus. As fuel rises and populations grow, mass transportation will be even more of a necessity for communities like ours to function.
Ever since I first explained my background to passengers on route three the title has followed me like a hashtag. “Have a good day, Reverend,” might be occasionally offered as a passenger I didn’t even know left the bus, or “Big Al was a preacher before he became a driver,” was offered by a familiar passenger who was showing a newbie the ropes of transit service.
One day, however, a regular rider asked in earnest, as we jostled down the uneven street, “Big Al, are you still a preacher?”
“What was that?” I replied, not hearing as well as I used to. “What did you ask?”
“Are you still a preacher?” they repeated.
“Well not anymore,” I replied. “I retired.”
There was a moment of silence signally the assembly of an added question in the inquirers mind. “Can a preacher really retire?” I popped a glance in the rearview mirror noticing the expression on the questioners face. It was if I had suggested that Mother Nature herself, on some particular day, were to stop attending to the natural order that keeps the universe in balance.
“Well, I guess what I mean is that I no longer have a congregation.” I attempted to correct myself.
He was, again, silent for a spell and then from the rear of the bus came the words, “We’re your congregation! Isn’t that right?”