It’s been almost two years since we returned to the U.S, which is crazy because it feels like we were in Costa Rica yesterday (but like, if yesterday was also a million years ago). I can’t believe it has been that long since we embarked on this latest segment of our journey, two years since El Chupacabra took on a new role and a new title and found himself in new place in the (weird, gross, false) hierarchy of the Church.
For two years he has been a “Pastor”. Well, his actual job title is “Director” but he’s sort of known around these parts as the “pastor of outreach and missions”, so for all intents and purposes he is a pastor. Which, of course, makes me a pastor’s wife (hilarious, I know!) and bestows upon our darling angelic children, who are also giant hairy men, the not so coveted position of Pastor’s Kids. *sad trombone* Thankfully, this was not a huge shock to their system since they’d already been thrown into the fire as later-in-life Missionary Kids. They had a pretty good idea of what awaited them.
But there was one teeny tiny itty bitty awkward problem.
See. Not all of our kids identify themselves as Christian. They’re not walkin’ with the Lord, as we say it… y’know… In the business.
We have one kid who will stand in front of a crowd with a mic and a guitar and sing songs of worship and thanksgiving to the God he loves. And we have another who strongly questions the existence of that very same God. He’s a pastor’s kid who uses foul language, like doubtful and agnostic, and sometimes even claims the scarlet letter, yes, the BIG ‘A’… (I’ll give you a second to clutch your pearls…)
GASP!!! What’s a pastor to do?!
I don’t really know, but I’ll tell you what we did…
Before my husband started his job at the church, we sat down with all of our boys and had an honest conversation about our expectations of each of them as Pastor’s Kids. We laid out the ground rules clearly. We told them exactly what we wanted to see from them and precisely how they were expected to behave, because we could not abide the embarrassment and disappointment of being “those parents”. You know who I’m talking about, the ones who raise kids who are afraid to just be themselves.
So first we told them to be honest, to tell the truth about who they are and where they’re at with the whole God thing, always, even if it makes people uncomfortable. Even at youth group? Yup. Even on Easter? Yup. Even in front of church leaders? Yup. Even with creepy pastor groupies?…Especially then, son, especially then. This doesn’t mean they go around throwing out personal information at inappropriate times, just that they have permission to speak freely when it’s called for.
Then we told them to be open, to stay receptive to new ideas, and old ones, always, even if it makes them uncomfortable. This advice was not directed at any one child, but to all three, faithful or doubting, because it is too damn easy for us to settle on false ideas and call them Truth, even -and maybe especially – Biblical Truth. What’s that one saying? “Don’t believe everything you think.” …Yeah, that. We could probably all benefit by practicing a little bit more of that kind of cognitive humility.
Last, we reminded them to honor their parents. And they do. They honor us with their challenging questions and their smart observations. They honor us by listening when we do our best to answer, and by understanding when we have no answers at all. They honor us by punctuating conversations that end in disagreement with respect and love, and they honor us by showing their character of deep conviction and brave stance. My doubter is remarkably full of grace for his parents who love Jesus, but so often fail to reflect His teaching at home, and we are honored to receive it.
We are so incredibly proud of the bright, thoughtful, courageous heathens we’re raising. And while, as Christian parents, we cling to certain hopes and dreams for our children’s faith and future, we trust that the God we believe in is near to them, fully present, and doing His thing. El Chupacabra and I are honestly very cool with the whole situation.
Some people want to be shocked and appalled by our utter lack of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. They think our kids need a good old-fashioned Bible thumping, and that we are driving them straight to the gates of hell with our nonchalance and free-wheelin’ lifestyle. …Meh. We’re cool with that, too. You go ahead and be scandalized over something that is none of your damn business. We’ll just be over here, loving our kids.
We’ve noticed several times over our whole two years in the pastor gig that there’s sort of an assumption that all Pastors Kids are Christian. Almost as if Faith were a genetically inherited trait, handed down from parent to child though tiny strands of DNA, like webbed fingers and detached earlobes, or that flippy thing some people can do with their tongue. Hell, maybe it is! But if that’s the case, then Doubt must also be an inherent part of some of us, having been passed down on a cellular level. I could actually get behind that theory. The truth is, one of my sons was born trusting and gentle, welcoming anyone and everyone into his little heart, and he has believed in Jesus since he was, like, four or something ridiculous. The other was born a hard-shelled skeptic, taking in every detail of his environment before casting judgement or letting anyone in, and he has questioned the Jesus narrative since forever, even as a very, very small child.
|My boys!! …We’re a blended family.|
But, like, on the inside.
I don’t know what causes one person to doubt while another believes. I certainly have some ideas as to how each of my kids have come to the conclusions about God they currently hold (I would have to take some of the blame). When I try to look at life from their unique perspective, I can see pretty easily how they’ve ended up where they have. These guys have had a lot to sift through, as we’ve moved them out of the country and back again, and they’ve each found different ways to cope and to thrive. If they haven’t yet finished the task of figuring out who God is in relation to themselves, that’s ok. They are allowed their process.
In the end, I want my kids to find their own faith, not inherit mine by default. (Anyway, mine is pretty janky. Surely, they can do better.)
Let’s be real though, I have no idea if we’re doing the right thing. My younger boys are teenagers living at home, and the oldest is just about to blow this joint, so the jury’s still out. But I do hope that by regarding our children’s individuality and by allowing and engaging with them in the right-of-passage wrestling of souls, we are managing our family in a manner worthy of respect.
Believing in Jesus? Receiving His redemption? These are not commands to be given by a father and obeyed by a child. They are a loving invitation from God to his people, every last one of His people, and He is patiently awaiting their reply…
Pastor’s kids are people, too.
But sometimes they’re not Christian people.
….. ….. …..
Christian parents: Are your kids “walking’ with the Lord?”
Kids of Christian parents: … Um… Sorry. We really are doing our stupid best.