We both were sitting in our basements to have this talk. Behind Eric was a wall of photos and a Detroit Red Wings bar. Behind me, a wall of guitars. These are my toys.
There were toys all around Eric as well. Not just the ones that he and his wife have procured for their sixteen-month-old son.No, Eric has a serious LEGO collection that date back to when Eric was a young boy.
I must confess that I had seen Eric's LEGO collection before, in a different basement in a different state. Before we met today, I had already been following LEGO Eric, his social media persona. “Lego Eric is always in my pocket, ready to go.” Believe it or not, from out of his pocket he drew the infamous plastic character, a LEGO miniature of himself.
For the past four years I thought that LEGO Eric was just a replica of George Lucas, the Star Wars creator. It turns out that Eric build himself out of different parts from different LEGO kits – he has the face of a black smith, the shirt from a tennis player, and the hair from a random collection of parts, because "you know, hair changes." He also carries with him a cloth pouch that has Lego Eric’s props and wardrobe.
As we talked, I could hear the footsteps of a production company stomping overhead in my house. They have rented it for a movie set, which I discovered was also Eric’s world. After receiving his B.A. in Theater from Hope College in Holland, MI. Eric moved to Chicago to act. This lead to him trying his hand at directing. “I always played with LEGO sets as a Director, not like a technician or an engineer. I played to create stories.” Turns out, that skill would later pay off.
“I was a better director than an actor.” But in order to get work, he started designing stage lighting for plays. And within a few years he was in grad school getting his MFA in Lightning Design. Today, he is back at his alma mater; only this time as a professor. “I always had a mind to teach.” But at one point, Eric also thought about ministry.
Like I said, I saw some of Eric’s LEGO creations years ago while visiting his parents in Spencer, Iowa. He is a PK – a preacher’s kid – like his sister Laura who I met exactly one week ago. It's not uncommon for a PK to want to follow in their parent’s footsteps. But few ever do. “I’m theologically connected, but I cuss like a sailor.” I can’t think of a better candidate. He confessed that the only thing he likes about ministry is having "the opportunity to write a well-crafted speech every week.” (I would be lying if I didn't say I'd totally have LEGO Eric do pulpit supply for me).
Eric is a story teller, like his parents. Like them, he has started writing a new story, with his wife, as newish father himself. “It’s what I wanted it to be” (when asked about fatherhood) but he was quick to add that “I never really liked babies. I always struggle with someone who doesn’t talk.” Eric likes to talk, and much like I am around both his parents, I held on to his every word.
When his grandmother asked him why he always played with LEGOs he told her, “I love to make up stories.” But he never wrote them stories down. “I should have but didn’t.” Another thing he hasn’t done, but would love to one day, is shoot a crossbow. Like the advice he’d give to his younger self, “don’t sacrifice your dreams for a relationship.” If you want to shoot a crossbow, go for it.
Nick Offerman as Duke Silver
Parks and Recreation
He has dressed up like his favorite comic book heroes for Halloween. “I like to go as the alter ego of a superhero. Instead of being Ironman, I go as Tony Stark.”
However, when he showed me a picture of himself as Nick Offerman, who plays the character Duke Silver on the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” I completely forgot about LEGO Eric. Now I can only picture Creative Eric, or Professor Eric, or Daddy Eric, or my friends son Eric who would describe himself best as a “lighting designer, a professor, an MBA, hockey fan, big nerd vocal progressive.”
As I heard someone yell, “Cut!” above me, it seemed like the perfect time to dim the lights and gave him an applause. Life is a story that plays like a movie, or a sitcom, or a drama. And for some people, maybe a musical. When it happens, you can bet Eric and LEGO Eric will be there to play it out for our entertainment. That in itself is a ministry – finding your talent and living faithfully in it.