By Rev. Seth Ethan Carey
“I’d say I make about $14,000 a month,” he told me casually from the backseat of my car, headphones dangling from his ears. He looked young – young enough that I insisted on checking his ID before driving him anywhere – but he was apparently a big YouTube personality with a hundred thousand followers on the Internet, an aspiring hip hop artist who was already doing quite well for himself with online advertising revenue.
Left to my own devices, I hadn’t fared so well. I’d been driving for the popular taxi service Uber for a few weeks now, but once you subtracted the cost of gas, and factored in the wear and tear on the car, I was earning next to nothing. It didn’t much matter to me personally, as I wasn’t in it for the money. As you all know, I took a sabbatical this past summer; and while some pastors use that time away for academic study, or travel to sites of religious significance, or simply to catch up on their theological reading, my program was less orthodox. I decided to take a complete detour from religious life, do something entirely different for a couple of months. I wanted to look at the world through a new lens, preferably one that wasn’t made of stained glass.
I met all kinds of people, driving for Uber around the Western Suburbs and occasionally into the city. I brought three groomsmen to a wedding. I took a couple who were here on vacation out to Lou Malnati’s for a taste of Chicago pizza. I talked dive bars with a guy in his early 20’s who wanted to get dropped off at one at 11:00 in the morning. I picked up a man from the Glen Ellyn Country club, late one night, who reeked of marijuana and told me they’d been smoking it out on the patio there. I met a man from Mexico who’d only been in the states for three weeks, having come on a work visa for another IT gig. And I picked up a college student at the DuPage County courthouse, who was arrested when her soccer coach found illegal opioids in her locker.
“Don’t the cops have anything better to do?” she lamented from the backseat. She regaled me, at some length, about how she was suspended from the soccer team but will probably go back next year because the other girls don’t like her and she just wants to annoy them, and how she’s the best player on the team, and how she’s got dirt on the coach who apparently had some kind of affair, and how the courts were really dragging out her case because she had to reschedule her next hearing on account of a modeling photo shoot she needs to be at.
I had to bite my tongue as she shared all of this with me. I wanted to challenge this young woman to really consider her feelings, beyond a sense of general resentment towards the world; to take some responsibility for her choices; and to think about why she felt like she needed the drugs in the first place. If this had been someone from the church, that’s the conversation I would have had.
But I wasn’t her pastor. I was a driver. So I kept my hands on the wheel, my eyes on the road, and my mouth shut.
I needed that time away from the church; in truth, I was tired, and often wondered if I was equal to the tasks before me. I needed to do something else for awhile to help me realize where I really belong. I’m not an Uber driver – I’m not even a good driver – I’m a pastor. It’s important to try new things. Sometimes, that’s how you find your real passion. And sometimes, it’s how you realize that it’s been right in front of you all along.