Blessings of a “PK” Childhood
Perhaps it is just the season with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; perhaps it is the fact that my husband and I will soon welcome our first son into the family; but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I was raised. Some people might say that my childhood was idyllic. Others might say that my upbringing was unusual. I guess I don’t know about either of those, but I would say that the years under my father’s roof were ordained by God and made me the kind of person that I am today.
You see, I was a pastor’s daughter – the dreaded or the envied ”PK,” depending on who is talking! My father was a pastor before I was even born, and my three brothers and I had what I consider a privileged upbringing in a preacher’s home. Preachers can be a strange breed of people. They tend to ”get” each other, perhaps, but few other people really do click with the preacher. Preachers tend to have polarizing personalities, and even if they don’t have that personality by nature, any person who stands up and unashamedly preaches the truth will have a polarizing effect. People either love them or hate them, and sometimes that can change with the slightest shift in the breeze!
When I look back on the way that my parents raised me, and particularly some of the things that my mom did, there are a couple of things that really stand out. These are the things that I want to incorporate into my home, with my children, who will also be raised in a preacher’s home. These things are certainly not restricted to just the preacher’s family, as these would be beneficial for any family!
- God is going to take care of us.
Maybe this is the one thing that I remember my mom saying most frequently– to us, to my dad, to anyone who would listen! Yes, there were times (many that I can remember, and many more that I wasn’t told about at the time!) when my parents weren’t sure if we would be packing up and leaving town by the next morning. There were times when money was tight. There were times when my dad had been given a death threat by someone who would not be an unlikely candidate to follow through with it! There were many times when it seemed like the lies, the confusion, the drama, or whatever you want to call it, seemed to cloud the air, but the focus was not on the worry or the wondering, but on the fact that God was bigger than whatever it was we were facing. The same faithful God that took care of Joseph, of Moses, of the 3 Hebrew children, of Peter and John was the same faithful God who was going to take care of our family.
God is going to be the One Who preserves His church and His Word. That is a responsibility that we don’t have to take! Yes, the pastor is the under-shepherd of the flock, but ultimately, people will make their own decisions about how they want to run their lives. The pastor is not responsible for their decisions; he is only responsible for sharing the truth. When the pastor has done that which he is responsible to do, then he (and his family) can leave the results up to God, and know that He has already worked out the rest of the details.
- Let’s celebrate today.
It’s easy to let the hard days just roll one right into another, until you have a whole chain of hard days and not a lot of fun days. Maybe you can’t make every day “fun,” but the tougher days are the best days to look for something to celebrate! Children need to know that Mom and Dad can have fun too! There are the obvious things, of course. Celebrating birthdays shows kids that we are so happy that God put them in our family and gave us the gift of them. Celebrating school and other accomplishments commemorates the event and encourages more hard work. Sometimes it’s a little more work to find something worth celebrating, but it can be something as simple as fresh roses on the table just because the day is nice, or having a picnic in the park, or using the best china on a weeknight, just because we are happy to be a family together. I heard my Mom give this advice to more than one missionary wife through the years, because often those first, slow days of ministry on the foreign field (which sometimes roll into slow months and years) can take a toll on the missionary’s family. It is easy to just let everything slip into the negative, but moms can do a lot to change the attitude of the home!
- Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.
Perhaps good flexibility is the first thing a PK learns. Just like a doctor or a volunteer fireman, a pastor has to be ready to be “on the job” at a moment’s notice. A death or a family crisis for a church member does not always wait until the most convenient moment to happen. How many times do I remember we would just be sitting down to supper when the phone would ring for Dad, signaling the start of a three-hour phone call? (Just for the record, we didn’t usually wait for him!) Phone calls come in the middle of the night, the middle of birthday parties, even the middle of vacations! I never saw my Mom get upset about a phone call interrupting a family event, and she would always remind us that this was part of the sacrifice that we needed to make, so that Dad could be available to the people God gave him to lead.
Having hard times in a pastor’s family is just the nature of the ministry, and no matter how much a parent tries to shield their child from the struggles, children figure out quite a bit more than you think. Part of being in the ministry is being prepared to be hurt by people. Sometimes the hurt is quite intentional: there are those who will specifically target the pastor’s wife or children to try to “get at” the pastor. Sometimes, the hurt is unintentional, and someone is just making their decision to live their life their own way, apart from God and what He wants from them. While that is their own decision to make, it can’t be done without affecting others, not the least of which is the pastor who loves them and has perhaps spent a lot of time pouring himself into them. How discouraging to see someone you have loved, prayed for, and counseled just walk away and leave it all behind.
When I consider being part of a ministry family, the negatives do come to mind. I’ve talked to many embittered PK’s who loathe their upbringing, and all they can see is the negative. But with every negative, it is hard not to see the positive as well. Yes, being hurt and watching people leave is a part of the ministry, but the joys of seeing those who faithfully follow through, make changes in their lives for the better – these are the positives! While my family and I could sit around and reminisce about all the people that have ‘left’ through the years, it is much more encouraging to think of those who have stayed faithful. We have so many faithful friends through the ministry and it is a joy to see those people still serving the Lord in their church. It always gives me a sense of “pride” when I hear someone talking about how something my father taught them saved their marriage, their family, or even their life!
In the end, I wouldn’t trade my upbringing as a pastor’s daughter for anything, and I count myself rich in experiences and relationships! The blessings, in my mind, far outweigh the hard times.