“Say hi to everyone!”
“Stand up straight.”
“Why is everyone staring at me?
I want to get out of here.”
“Calm down and just breathe.”
“Just a few more hours until church service is over..”
These were just a few of thoughts I would face every time I had to go to church. I grew up my whole life in a faith-based home, so going to church was part of my everyday life. It was normal for me. I even learned how to play the, “I have everything together, I have no problems” part all too well.
You see, my dad is a pastor, so as many of you may know when people hear the word “Pastoral Family” what they really hear is “Perfect Family” which is far from the truth. Neither my family, nor any pastoral family, is anywhere close to perfect. We face daily struggles at work, school, in relationships, and face personal issues. Yet, the only difference is we have to learn to put our emotions and personal needs last for the sack of the congregation. When people hear that I am a pastor’s kid, they don’t hear fellow sister in Christ who is still going through a process called life. What they tend to hear is “I got my life together, I never have to face storms, and if I do God stops them right away”. The truth is that I am just as human as the rest of the world. I bleed when I get cut, I cry when I am in sorrow, and I don’t know what to do when things don’t make sense. I sometimes question where God is leading me, I get offended, I get joyful, I have what all humans have- feelings. Yet, when it came to my feelings in a church setting I had to learn to suppress them. I had to learn quickly that people are going to judge me not based on my character, but based on the title I never asked for: the Pastor’s kid.
For many years I hated being a pastor’s kid. I would hate the idea of people knowing that I am a child of a pastor because they look at you differently. It often seemed as if people were waiting for me to fail and fall into sin so that they could rub my failures in my face when I already knew that I was flawed and imperfect. But see, although you know you are imperfect, you come into this habit of creating a façade that you are perfect. You start living your life trying every day to not only meet the expectations your family has over you, but what the church has over you. Your identity slowly starts to become tied with the opinions of others, and you slowly lose yourself because you are trying to please those around you.
I can remember when there were moments when I would barely enter church, and the stares would start. I could feel my heart racing, my skin getting warmer and warmer, anxiety would flood inside of me, and all I could think was “I can’t wait till church is over”. I would have to beg my aunt to take me home immediately after church because I couldn’t wait for the ever-staring eyes to stop looking at my every move. This caused my anxiety, at this point at my life, to be at an all-time high.
Although life at this time was hard, I can honestly say I had (and still have) amazing parents because although the church had high expectations of me due to the fact that I was a pastors kid, my parent’s expectations for me were simply based on the fact that I was their kid. They knew and believed that God gave my sisters and I the capability to do anything we put our minds to. The unfortunate part, however, is that many parents that are pastors don’t think the same way. There are many pastors’ kids whose parents have put a tremendous amount of pressure on them to maintain their image, not because they are children of God, but because they are a pastoral family and anything less than perfect is unacceptable. But if you look closely, this is where the problem starts. The reason why we hear and become witnesses of pastor’s kids walking away from God is because we ask them to meet these unreachable expectations.
I can remember many moments where I would hear comments on the way I should dress, act, and be like because of the expectations others had over me. Eventually this caused me to hate, and not be able to forgive myself when I felt that I failed those around me because I wanted to please those around me. I didn’t want those around me to judge me, and stare at me. Nevertheless, that was inevitable because no matter how much I tried to wash away the sign on my forehead that said “pastor’s kid”, it wouldn’t come off. I had to and still am learning to accept the fact that being a pastor’s kid is not a curse but a blessing. It is a blessing because, yes although it comes with so much responsibility that I didn’t ask for, it has taught me to learn that my identity is not tied to what people say I am or should be. My identity is solely based on who God says I am. I learned that people are always going to expect something from me, but it is up to me to allow them to have power over me, or to take that power back and stand firm in the fact that I am beautifully imperfect.
I am not always going to have a good day, I am not always going to want to smile, my feelings are not made out of steel, I am not weak if I feel broken, I will never be perfect, and that is okay.
Whether you are a person with a title over your head or not, we need to remember that we are all going to make many mistakes in our journey of life. But our job is not to look at one another’s title to determine the judgment we will have, but our job is to uplift, pray, love, care, and encourage one another.