Fathers do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
This August we were driving "down south" to visit my husband's sister and her family for a much needed family vacation. The drive was lengthy and we had already gone through all our books on CD so we cranked up the volume on some local Christian radio. Between every song advertisements for a special conference came up over and over again. We heard them for the whole week we were there, and I tell you, I could recite them by heart. This conference was important for someone. Near the end of the week it struck me that the conference wasn't for adults, but was for pastor's kids still in the home. I turned to my daughter (age 12) and said, "Wow, a whole conference just for pastor's kids! Is that really necessary?" (Forgive my ridiculousness for 3 minutes and hear me out…)
My sweet daughter was oddly quiet. I looked back at her from my seat next to my husband. "Do you think of yourself as a pastor's kid?"
In my mind, Macee was just like any other kid. Bright, fun, beginning to get past the grouchy stage of early adolescence…beautiful. Child of God. Redeemed, transformed, made new. The only thing different between her and another child of God, in my thoughts, was that she was tall for her age and had a special gift for loving on any person, of any age, at any time.
But that doesn't answer the question does it, for Macee. "Do you think of yourself as a pastor's kid?" From the backseat came the small answer,
"Everyday, Mom. Everyday."
As I sat back and contemplated her response and my apparent lack of understanding of the life of a PK (never being one myself), I recalled a different conversation in our house three years prior. My daughter, broken hearted, needing a friend, feeling unloved and unworthy came to me in tears, "People just think we're weird, Mom. Everyone thinks we're different."
At the time I thought that conversation was just about us. Just about our family's zest for individuality and zeal for uniqueness. At that moment I realized, it's not about me, it's not about our family, it's about the church and that weird place we put church work families. "What?!" you say, "What place? I don't put anyone in a place?" But you see, we do.
Just as the verse above says, Fathers, don't provoke your children. Don't raise the bar for them. Don't expect more of them. Don't assume you know them, because they are your child. So, this verse is fitting for the church, because really, that is where my child, under no choice of her own, is growing up. Church, don't provoke your children. Just as you love your pastor, love his children. Don't raise the bar for them. Don't expect more of them. Don't assume you know them, until you spend time getting to know them individually. They are each beautiful and precious, and unique. Their love for Jesus comes not just from the home they're raised in, but the church that raises them. Don't love them for who you think they should be, love them for who they are. The verse promises what will come when we set the bar too high for our pastor's children (whether in our own home as pastor's families, or in the context of the church)…discouragement. Almost every single translation uses this same word- discouragement.
What does the discouragement of a PK look like? It's different for every child, obviously, but I think that it's the cracks, the fissures of faith that begin innocently that are most concerning. The PK who simply can not sit in a pew contentedly for the ants in their pants, and is scolded by more than their mother. The PK who is frustrated with being the acolyte for the 84th Sunday in a row because they are the only ones who show up. The PK who is afraid to tell someone they struggle with their body image, because it's just more stress for mom or dad, who is helping everyone else. The PK who hears the words people say about their Dad and has no where to go with them.
How do we create churches who love and uplift their PKs? Love and uplift them…as individuals! Celebrate their unique gifts and do not give them more than there fair share, simply because they show up. Notice who they are, not in relation to who is their parent, but in relation to who God made them to be. This is how our children learn that the church is a place to grow and be loved and desire to stay there and flourish.
May we take a step back and be an encouragement rather than a discouragement. I take numerous steps and build all kinds of boundaries to protect my children from the life of growing up PK; to help them love Jesus and love the church, not because I do, but because they have the Spirit of the Living God inside them. Foolishly I thought I could do this alone. My daughter reminded me I could not. I need the church to do this with me, to see with me how precious she is as herself, and herself alone.
*No Macees were harmed in the writing of this blog post. All Macees were asked permission to share their stories with the world at large. :)