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Growing up a scarecrow

As a kid, one of the most memorable, lasting impressions on me was watching the “Wizard of Oz.” I loved that movie. From the transition from black and white to color to the music to the action, I loved it. I had nightmares as a child about flying monkeys and angry, talking trees. My kids do not like it as much as me, but they humor me and watch it with me.

I was always struck by the end. The scarecrow is actually a pretty bright fellow, but he feels constantly hindered by having no brain. So the “Wizard of Oz” gives the scarecrow a diploma and suddenly he is bright. It has a bit of new resonance with me this week as I start a Ph.D. program in theology. I transferred from Reformed Theological Seminary last week into the doctoral program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. They offered me a scholarship into the program. I am not expecting the scarecrow’s results.

All of this got me thinking, though, about growing up. As I cross into my 40s I realize there really is no point where suddenly you have transcended into some bit of adulthood that qualifies you for anything. One day you just wake up and you have a mortgage, kids and bad knees. You go to the office looking for the boss to report to and realize you are the boss.

No wizard from Oz hands you a diploma and says, “You’re in charge now.” You just are. You reach a point where the kids at Chick-fil-A call you sir and you walk onto a college campus and wonder when colleges started letting kids in. You go a few days without shaving and utter a few grown up words that cannot be repeated here when you realize the whiskers growing out of your chin are gray.

I get why people have midlife crises now. Suddenly you’re in charge and there are small people whose butts literally have to be wiped, and other people who want you to make decisions about things that affect other people’s lives. It can all be overwhelming. Then you wonder if you had played your cards right as you start to realize life is starting to lock in around you from job to marriage to everything else. It is enough to throw some people off the deep end.

I just do not recall the day that suddenly I became an authority figure. I mean I remember it with my kids. They’re covered in poop. The person who regularly changes their diapers is granted de facto authority status. But what of others? One day you’re sitting at a bar having beers with friends and the next day a bunch of people are looking to you for direction about their jobs or something else because you are the oldest guy in the room or the one with the most seniority.

Honestly, it can be a little creepy. I certainly know people who get into the “boss” mindset where they know they are master of their own universe and of all they survey. But then there are those, the majority, who keep turning to look for guidance from the authority figure.

One day they wake up, turn, and realize there is no one standing to their right. They have become that person and either must rise to the occasion or the ship will sink. Sometimes you just want a wizard to hand you a heart or diploma or get you back to Kansas.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.