I whispered for the hundredth time! Shhhhh!” I glanced at my watch as my two young daughters squirmed and wiggled during church. I tried to keep a pleasant look on my face, but I was getting frustrated!
It was our first Sabbath in our new district. We had moved into a small house earlier in the week, and the girls were sharing a bedroom for the first time in their short lives. Sharing is a virtue I hold in high esteem, but having two youngsters share a room for the first time and then having to be the model family after short nights of sleep (or sleeplessness) were taking a toll on them and me!
I glanced down and saw one daughter scooting under the pew and just about lost my put-together appearance! The church was filled with older people who had forgotten what it felt like to be a harried parent sitting in church with two little children. Most of them had no idea what it was like to sit alone with these same two children, trying to keep them occupied—while their father was preaching!
Finally the closing prayer was finished, and I leaned over to gather my things before exiting the sanctuary. As though released from an invisible restraint, my daughter hopped up on her knees and looked over the back of the pew. Just then, I heard a lady in the row behind me lean up to my daughter and tell her in a hushed but loud tone, “You were very naughty in church today! You should sit still and be quiet!”
I spun around and looked this woman in the face. She had a pasted-on smile, but a scowl was lurking behind her eyes. “I can see you have your hands full!” she stated as she walked out of her pew.
Swallowing my tears, I picked up our bag and smiled as we walked out. I couldn’t cry here. I still needed to meet the people in our new congregation and hope that my children wouldn’t cause any more scowls! They were only 11/2 and 4 years old!
The next week at church, I made sure to sit on the other side of the church from the scowling lady and then learned that she and her husband would be going to Arizona for the winter. Phew! Maybe we’d be more settled by the time they came back. Also, that next week, another lady came and sat with me during church.
“I’m sure it must be hard to be alone in the pew with the girls, so I’m going to sit with you every week!” she said as she took my oldest on her lap. She pulled a coloring book and some new crayons out of her bag and patted me on the back. I smiled back and brushed away my tears of gratefulness! Little did I know that she would be there every week for three years!
Fortunately my children do not remember the first lady’s comments. But they will always remember the second lady, who has become our friend.
Now my children are much older and can sit still through the whole church service, but I think about all the pastors’ kids out there. A lady in one of our churches asked me why we’d want to raise our children in a pastor’s home (as if I would adopt them out just because my husband is a pastor!). But I looked at her and said, “Because I was raised in a pastor’s home, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!” She shook her head and said that she had been a pastor’s kid too and hated every minute of it.
As I pondered about this, I realized that when I was a child, I never thought that my family was different from the other families in the church. Sure, we had to attend all the meetings’, never missed a Sabbath, went to camp meeting for two weeks instead of one, and got to go to Worker’s Retreat and play in the lake for a week, but other than that, we were just like everyone else! No one (that I knew of) expected me to act differently because I was the pastor’s daughter. I never knew what a glass house was!
Now as a parent of pastor’s kids, I wonder if I’m raising my kids as “normal” kids without extra expectations. Sure, I have expectations as a parent, but they wouldn’t be any different if my husband had a different occupation! We want our children to love Jesus and make Him first in their lives. We want them to be involved in the church and find ways to minister to others. We want them to be an example in school and Sabbath School and at the store. We want them to want to go to Heaven and live a life that will reflect that desire.
As I watch my children grow and mature, I pray that God will put a hedge around them to keep them safe from the critical words of people, that they will be safe from the harmful effects of bad associations, that they will be protected from the influence of people who just want to have fun and don’t see the need to listen to Jesus.
In the book of Hosea, there is a beautiful story of God’s love for the people of Israel even though they continually fall away from Him. In Hosea 2:6,7, God talks through Hosea to the wayward people. “I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now’ ” (NKJV).
Ministry families are different because there are so many demands upon their time and emotions. But I know that God is willing to hedge in my children and keep them from the paths that are not the right ones, to keep their hearts tender and gentle to Jesus in their lives. I also have a responsibility to teach my children to love the church and be respectful of its leaders. I have to be careful not to be critical of others but rather, to hold them up, so that my children can witness the benefits of being a pastor’s child, and most importantly—a child of God!