My Life as a Pastor’s Kid – Danielle’s Story
My story of being a pastor’s kid is difficult to write in isolation because it is tightly interwoven with the entirety of my life, and bleeds into so many other aspects of my journey. Often when I am in an existential mood, I sift through the personality traits or struggles unique to me and try to trace them back to this facet of my life. Pastor’s daughter. How does that shape me differently than any other member of a family with any other father’s vocation?
My life has been a good one. I have no doubt that being a daughter of a pastor comes along with some ‘perks’ — I’ve been privileged to see the inner workings of the leadership as the elders move towards new ministries. I have met and spoken to prolific, renowned pastors whose sole reason for remembering me is my last name. I’ve attended family camps of more churches than I can remember and as a result have met diverse people with endless true-life stories.
But, like life and this groaning creation, nothing is left untouched by the Fall.
My father’s ministry is made up of humans — images of God thoroughly ravished with sin — and he is called to be actively involved in lives for the good of the church. It’s a messy business. There are times that he comes home and anyone can read the empathy on his face from his listening to the brokenness of others. There are times when he doesn’t acknowledge my questions because in his mind he is still in his counseling room, or in a hospital, or at the funeral of a little boy. There were times when I was near-tears, yet I would shrink back from telling him why because the laments of a teenage girl seem petty when he has come from counseling a family torn asunder.
At a sensitive age, I was disturbed at the pervasiveness of such brokenness, but now I understand it is a blessing to have grown up seeing the human struggle — and redemption — in such a real, important way.
One remark I’ve often heard from pastor’s kids is a feeling of being held to a higher standard, but I would be underestimating the grace and sympathy of my church family to say that I felt the same. If anything, my pride rendered me incapable of being honest. I was afraid if I was completely open about my sinful struggles and times of doubt, it would reflect badly upon my father. I held back because I thought if somebody found out we were not a fruit-of-the-spirit family all the time, that person would not be able to respect my father in the pulpit. This battle between fierce loyalty and honesty gunned me down for years, until I was able to realize the truth of James 5:16 — that where there is honesty among community, there is healing. More than being a good representative of my family, God desires me to be a good representative of Christ. That is freeing, because it means that I am no different than any other redeemed sinner, seeking God on a journey Home.
I am sure my story on this subject differs from others’, but mine rests on the kind of pastor my dad is.
I remember when our church once went through a split, and young as I was, I understood what slander was. It ached to the depth of my being- hearing the car pull in late at night, the steady step of my dad, the low voices emanating from my parent’s room.
It was all too much for me so I draped my blanket over my shoulders and tapped on my parent’s door. My ten year old vocabulary lacked the words needed to sufficiently represent my feelings, and I said a feeble, “Dad, I’m sorry people hurt you.” Though it was late and my father tired, he sat on the edge of his bed with me and explained to me the necessity of people following their Biblical convictions, even if it meant their leaving the church or causing minor hurts.
And that’s the kind of man my pastor is. A good one. That’s the kind of man my dad is. A good one. He just happens, for me, to be one and the same, and I wouldn’t change that for all the world.