Childhood plays a very significant part in our lives. How we’re raised defines us in adulthood, paving the way toward how we interact with people: family, friends, churches, co-workers, or strangers.
Father figures especially shaped our lives. Truth be told, none of us had a perfect father growing up. Some of us grew up in abusive homes, others grew up without physical fathers, and some grew up with emotionally absent fathers.
Others of us did have present fathers growing up. Fathers who did their best to provide for their families in whatever ways possible.
We all carry this expectation of either wanting to be like our fathers or not wanting to be like our fathers.
My father was a pastor and a pretty good one! I grew up in a Christian household, where my family heard the Bible day in and day out. It was like our second language, quoting Scripture, or retelling Bible stories to our parents. I’d say my family was pretty healthy as could be.
Of course, we had our issues, whether it was my father getting mad at me and my brothers for doing something stupid, spanking us, having an angry outburst, or somewhat verbally abusing us. We can all agree that not every father is perfect, but my father shaped me and my brothers to respect him and that there were consequences for our actions.
When my father became a pastor in his late twenties, I don’t think my family understood the significance that would entail, especially for me, growing up. It was like this weight of responsibility to be the perfect family was on our shoulders.
It was both an honor and a burden because we were the family that everyone looked up to. On the other hand, we couldn’t hang out with a lot of people, especially those deemed part of the “wrong crowd.”
My dad was a skeptical person, especially regarding spiritual stuff. He asked questions when people told him things God had shown them in their lives — things like visions and dreams. He didn’t question them harshly but challenged them to think and discern if these things were from God or them.
My father also made sure that our family had a strong faith foundation, and he was very proud to lead my family into godly relationships. He did simple stuff like read the Bible to us before bedtime, pray for us, or chase all of us into the living room for family talks that led into amazing God talks.
Though my father was a busy pastor, he made sure he was there for each of his kids, whether by canceling Wednesday night Bible studies for one of his son’s football/basketball games, going on a field trip with one of us, or teaching us how to drive. Family time was very important to him because he saw that it would shape us into the men we’d become now, and if he didn’t take that responsibility, we’d certainly have a different future and probably despise him for caring for his church more than us.
Even in the privacy of our own home, we had to be careful what we did; if we caused any trouble, my dad used our mistakes in his sermons. Basically, we were put on blast for everyone to hear. Man! I hated that!
Every Sunday morning, I heard my dad put me or one of my siblings on stage, metaphorically speaking, telling the entire congregation our wrongs. It felt like dying from embarrassment every time my father did this. I always had to be on my best behavior, or I’d just hide my mistakes so I wouldn’t be another sermon example for the congregation again.
Mistakes were not welcome when I was growing up a pastor’s kid. One “mistake” that used to haunt me growing up was my sexuality. My dad, being a pastor, instructed us that homosexuality was an enormous sin, and we should stay away from “those people” if we ever came into contact with them.
And yet my dad unknowingly had a son who’d deal with homosexuality growing up. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I hid my homosexuality because I didn’t want my father or my family to know that I was a “mistake.”
Holding the burden to be the perfect family and hiding my sexuality from everyone was very draining. I often had the mindset of: “What will my family think of me if I ever have sex with another man?” or “What will happen if they ever find out if I’m gay?” or “What will happen to me if I ever have a boyfriend? God will hate me, and my family will hate me!”
Trying to uphold the integrity of my father’s name while having all these conflicting thoughts led me to hook up with a 30-year-old man. I threw it all away because I wanted to be free from trying to be the perfect son for my father’s namesake.
It was freeing to finally make my own decisions and not follow my father’s idea of being the perfect son. And yet I did have to suffer the consequences of my own actions.
In the end, it did shape my character and launched me to be my own man, making my faith my own.
I’m grateful for this foundation that set up a redemptive story in my life. Though it may not be an awesome redemptive story, and I’m still struggling with the consequences for my actions, having a father who was also a pastor helped me out so much in life.
Eventually, I found my place in the world, and I appreciate having grown up in a pretty good family with an awesome father. Though it wasn’t the ideal family, I learned to love the integrity that my father instilled in us growing up, and he tried his best to teach me to follow Christ in my own way.
I’m very proud that I was a pastor’s kid, and I did my best to be held to that standard. I’m even defensive when people have negative things to say about pastors and their families because I understand what they go through. Not many people can be put in that position, but I view it as a badge of honor to be given that position.
Did you grow up in a Christian household? Did you have a father involved in your life? For anyone else who was a pastor’s kid, how was your life and your struggles growing up?
* Photo courtesy Steve Osmond, Creative Commons.