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The Search for Something More (Part I of II)

September 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Conversion, Paul McCusker

The Search for Something More
Part I of II

Life, As I Find It

By the end of 1984, I thought the direction of my life was fairly established. I’d been writing dramas for my church for the previous five years, at times spending 20 to 30 hours at the church taking part in a vigorous arts program. I was even published by a couple of reputable play publishers. Though none of that paid the bills, I didn’t mind. I had a day-job (my “tent-making,” to borrow the words of St. Paul) working as a copywriter for a local publishing house.

It’s funny to think about it now. Earlier in 1984, I had gone to my Pastor and asked if there was any way I might join the staff, since I was at the church all the time anyway. He laughed and asked, “What would you be – the minister of recreation?” (The relationship between the Arts and Church Leadership was not as cohesive as I thought.) Alternatively, he suggested I do a one-year degree at a nearby Seminary with the idea that it would smooth my way into a church position. I guess it was all right to be a “minister of recreation” as long as I had a Seminary degree behind it.

So there I was in October sitting in a Hermeneutics class and, rather than taking notes, I was scribbling for post on the search for something moreout an idea for a Christmas play. I realized I was kidding myself. One way or another, paid for it or not, I was going to be a writer. And so, by the end of the year, I had quit the Seminary and turned my attention to the obvious. If you’d asked me my plans then, I would have told you that I expected to live there in my hometown, attend and serve my Baptist church, and work at the publishing house to pay the bills. I’d marry a faithful Baptist girl and we’d have good Baptist children and live out our days to a happily ever after.

Then, just after the New Year of 1985, my father killed himself.

The event was unexpected, to be sure. And though I won’t go into details I will say that the jolt – with the ensuing aftershocks – changed everything in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. A little at a time.

Within a month of his death, I assumed I’d pick up the pieces and carry on with my life as usual. Then, within three months, the publishing company for whom I worked was bought out by a larger company in New York and closed its offices. Within six months I was trying to make ends meet as a freelance writer – and not successfully. Worse, the creative drive I’d had at my church simply wasn’t there. I was still doing all I’d been doing before, but my heart wasn’t in it. I became restless.

My father’s death and the loss of my job gave me pause for thought. My assumptions were shaken. If my Dad could kill himself – if the company I’d worked with for five years could simply go away – then all bets were off about my expectations.

Through my dramatic writing, I’d become connected to a drama troupe in Southern California. A friend there suggested I do the unthinkable: move west. It was unthinkable because I’d actually been to Southern California. I didn’t want to live there. I’d decided that God would have to re-arrange the stars in the sky like a giant arrow pointing in that direction for me to consider such a thing.

Over the summer of 1985, the constellations moved. All my reasons not to go were knocked off one by one, like the proverbial tin cans on a fence. By early September I had packed most of my belongings in a red Chevy Sprint, left my family and the life I’d known until then, and drove across the country.

Reflecting on it now, I see how the foundations of my years as a Baptist prepared me for what was to come. I’ve written about that elsewhere. But I also see how the rug had to be pulled out from under my expectations and assumptions for me to understand more deeply what it might mean to follow Christ. It took a geographical move for me to be moved spiritually. I was searching without knowing for what I was searching. And I had to go through some uncomfortable experiences before I began to understand.

More about that in the next post.


Art for this post on the search for something more: Ohne Titel (Handstudie) [Untitled Hand study)], Josef Löwy, before 1872, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Paul McCusker

Paul McCusker is an author. He converted from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism in 2007. He still works for an Evangelical organization. Paul has over 40 published works, including novels, plays, scripts, and lyrics.

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  • Yule

    Eager for Part II.

    Thank you for sharing.


  • DianeVa

    It took a geographical move for me to move spiritually as well. God knows exactly what He is doing with each one of us and uses “all for good” Rom 8:28

  • tom

    What a cold awakening when we move from specific ‘hopes’ and expectations of how things will turn out to simply having hope not knowing what will happen. Walking by faith and not by sight gives me bruises and fractures my ego.

  • I’m sorry that this is off topic but I just wanted to ask for prayers. Please pray for peace in Zamboanga, Minadanao, Philippines.The Moro National Liberation Front has taken arms. Some have been killed and hundreds hostaged. Please pray for them. That all may be safe, that there may be peace and for the conversion of the rebels. Thank you!

    • LizEst

      My prayers for your intentions.

    • debby_d_NJ

      Mary, thank you for this intention. My prayers are united to yours as we beg God, the Father of Mercy, for His Holy Will. May each soul discover His ever present love in the midst of this horror. The Cross of Christ is touching down in their lives right now…..may His Resurrection bring many souls to Him.

      • Thank you! And thank you for your consoling words!

    • Jeanette

      I have raised this situation up to God in prayer.

  • debby_d_NJ

    Great post, Paul.

    I believe that every disciple whom Jesus speaks the words, “Put out into the deep” experiences this very thing. Different textures and colors maybe, but the same proverbial rug pulled out from underneath all we hold dear, trust in, set our face to. His Great Love must pull that rug out, reveal the illusions we are ignorant of or in denial over, cause those false gods to fall from the pedestals…. we grow in grace and discover just how much more the Pharisee we are than the truly humble publican! Good for God at work in you! Praise be Jesus Christ!

    I am sure you read a pile of books annually, but please let me be a presumptuous pesky sister and recommend to you The Gift of Faith by Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer and the companion Families of Nazareth publications. A scholarly priest once remarked to me that the spirituality was “simple.” When I asked him how simple it was to live, ah! Then his eyes lit up and said, “yes, Truth IS Simple. Living it, being stripped of all our reliances, Becoming New! That is the struggle!”
    These books and the entrustment to Mary, our Mother, have helped me keep going.

    Many blessings to you as you stand in truth (on a bare hard but beautifully polished floor!), and SO LOOKING FORWARD to your continuation!

  • I’ve been going through a similar experience myself, also involving a
    major life upset and geographical move (in my case, back into my
    parents’ home — after 35 years on my own). I like your image of God
    rearranging the stars to point the way. My own analogy involves Him
    closing all the doors and then, as I stand looking out an open window, he puts
    a big boot against my backside and shoves me out. It was scary while I
    was falling, but I’ve landed in a better place.

    Looking forward to part 2!

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