“SHHH!” I WHISPERED for the hundredth time. 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 much sleeplessness was taking
its toll on them—and me.
I glanced down and saw one daughter scooting under the pew, and I just about lost my put together appearance! The church comprised mostly older people who had long ago forgotten the feeling of a harried parent sitting in church with two little children. Most of them had no idea what it was like to sit alone trying to keep them occupied—while my husband was preaching.
Finally the closing prayer was over, and I leaned over to gather all my things before exiting the sanctuary. As if being 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 woman 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.
Blinking back 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. After all, the girls were only 18 months and 4 years old! The next week at church I made sure to sit on the other side of the church from the scowling woman, and later learned that in three weeks she would be going to Arizona for the winter. Phew! Maybe we’d be more settled by the time she came back. Also, that next week another woman came and sat with me during the service.
“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 out a coloring book and some new crayons and then patted me on the back. I smiled and brushed away tears of gratitude. Little did I know that she would be there every week for three years.
Fortunately, the comments of the first woman have long been lost on my children. The deeds of the second woman, however, have lived in infamy as we’ve kept in contact and exchanged pictures and visits over the years. She is the one my children remember and not the critical woman.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER FAMILIES?
My children are much older now and can comfortably sit still through the entire church service, but I think about all the other pastors’ kids out there. A woman in one of our churches once asked 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 told me she had been raised in one too, but that she had hated every minute of it. As I thought about this, I realized that when I was a child, I never thought my family was any different from the other people in church. Sure, we had to be at all the meetings and didn’t miss a Sabbath, and we got to go to camp meeting for two weeks instead of one, plus worker’s retreat to 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 how well I’m raising my children 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 to make Him first in their lives. We want them to be involved in the church and find ways to minister. 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 to 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. Safe from the harmful effects of bad associations. Safe 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 we have a beautiful story of God’s love for Israel even after they continually fall away from Him. Through Hosea God tells His 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’ ” (Hosea 2:6, 7, NKJV).
Ministry families feel different from others because of the 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 to be respectful of the leaders. I have to be careful not to be critical of others but to hold them up so that my children can witness the positive life of being part of a ministry family and—most important—a child of God.