Well, it didn’t take long for me to break my self-imposed fast from Facebook and this blog, but I need to say something in response to some personal messages I have received lately (based on the assumption that if some people are voicing thoughts like this, at least a few more are probably thinking them without saying anything).
My daughter is a single mother with an active, healthy eight-year-old son who is in the third grade and doing very well in a challenging academic and social environment. She is employed full-time in a helping profession that requires her to travel extensively in the local area and to be on-call and available for emergencies even when she is off-duty.
When her son was only four months old, she left an unhealthy relationship in another state and moved in with her mother and me. In less than six months she had found both employment and a place to live on her own. Despite enormous challenges, she has been a loving, caring mother to our grandson, who is growing into a well-balanced, sensitive, polite, compassionate, and empathetic young man. I love them fiercely and could not be more proud of both of them.
Nearly eight years ago, not long after my grandson was born, I lost a job I truly loved as a Bible college instructor. The board’s action to terminate my contract was taken in response to an intentional and conscience-based decision I made to pursue a particular course of Christian discipleship that made it impossible for me to comply with a specific requirement in the college’s bylaws with regard to church attendance. Their action was completely legal. Whether it was just is another matter, and on that matter opinions differ.
At an earlier stage of my life and career, I would have marshaled all of my resources into the service of finding another job within the broad category of vocational Christian ministry, to which I had sensed a call from God nearly fifty years ago. I would have been willing to relocate to any place on the planet where I could use my gifts in the service of Christ and his kingdom. In 2008, however, that was not an option. My wife and I could not leave our daughter and grandson to fend for themselves in a new community to which they had only recently moved and where they had no network of support and assistance except for us.
I made the decision to set aside the possibility of finding a place of service and ministry that would have required relocation in order to be available to my daughter and grandson during a difficult and stressful time in their lives. I’m glad I did that. I have no regrets. Watching my grandson grow into the thoughtful and kind young person he is becoming is more than enough reward for any “sacrifice” I may have made.
Over the course of the past seven-plus years, I have tried to stay focused and do what I could to use my gifts and remain true to my calling. At the same time, I have committed myself to assisting my daughter to become established in her profession. That has entailed my being available to help with the care of my grandson in order to ease her financial burden and relieve her of the stress associated with finding child-care in light of her sometimes-erratic schedule.
That has been my top priority. Along the way, I used my gifts in communication to start a blog, to which I have contributed more than 300 posts in four years. I also prepared for and received ordination to the Anglican priesthood, and I wrote a book, an autobiographical novel published in the fall of 2014 (see below).
I am satisfied with my choices. I have tried to play the hand I’ve been dealt in a way that honors both God and my calling. I resent the high-handed and judgmental observations, criticisms, and suggestions that have been sent my way by some self-appointed counselors who do not know enough about my situation and the circumstances behind my decision-making to draw the kind of conclusions and offer the kind of assessments they have made.
I may not have re-joined the active work force over the past eight years, and there are many reasons for that, some of which I have sketched out here, but I have not been idle, and I have never asked anybody to give me a handout. I am where I am owing to decisions I have made, and if I had it to do over again, so far as the past ten years are concerned, I would do the same thing and make the same decisions.
This post comes in response to some correspondence I have received recently, to which I alluded above. I have struggled with depression all of my life, and I felt myself sliding down the slippery slope into an abyss of darkness and despair which has been a prison for me on several earlier occasions in my life. I awoke very early this morning with a sense of determination that I would not allow that to happen this time, if there was any way I could avoid it. That’s when I decided to write this post and vent these emotions. I’m going to return to my Facebook fast now, from which I expect to emerge in about three weeks with the first of forty new blog posts that I hope you will find helpful. In the meantime, thanks for reading this. I wish you well.
Here’s what others are saying about my autobiographical novel, The Long Road from Highland Springs: A Faith Odyssey. (Tap the title or the cover image to go to the book’s order page on Amazon.com.)
“In Eric Kouns’ debut novel, a man looks at the progression of his religious faith as he tells the story of his life. Kouns has created a character called Arthur Lough, whom he identifies as his ‘alter ego,’ as a way to examine his own doubts and struggles. His reflections are consistently compelling. This is a personal novel that presents an engaging examination of doubt, change, and faith.” –Kirkus Reviews
“This is an absorbing memoir… the tender story of a life tormented by disappointment and depression, yet sustained by the unshakable hope for the kingdom of God.” –From the back cover blurb by David Swartz, Assistant Professor of History at Asbury University and author of Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.