Loneliness in Ministry, part 5 | Once upon a time, there was a lonely preacher’s kid…
Back in a little world in East Texas, I was a brand new wife, fresh out of Bible college. And that’s when I noticed something about my little brother that I’d never noticed before.
*Bub is five years younger than I am. In our family, he’s the only boy, the extrovert, the fun-loving guy in a pretty serious bunch.
Back in the early 2000’s, my parents had just left a pastorate of ten years and moved to a new church in another part of the state. My younger sister had recently left for Bible college, and I was newly married and on my own.
For the first time in his sixteen years, Bub had no familiar surroundings. No local friends. And no siblings at home.
I dropped by my parents’ home one winter afternoon while my husband was at work, and something about my little brother’s posture sort of slapped me in the face.
He’s lonely. This kid is lonely.
I tried to put myself into his world. Tried to think of some small way to connect, to breathe a little Life into his life.
His 17th birthday was a few days away. How would a teenage guy like to spend his birthday?
I ended up suggesting to my parents a pizza-night-out to celebrate. That meant a thirty mile drive to the nearest CiCi’s Pizza, but I remember the crazy grin my brother flashed me when I told him.
An impulsive drive into town for pizza was a pretty crazy idea for a seriously frugal preacher’s family! 😉
Maybe it was my own taste of loneliness as a teenager, but somehow my heart understood my little brother’s need for excitement and someone to share it with.
As a slightly introverted girl growing up in a rural church, I felt the sting of feeling “invisible” and “alone” more times than I can count.
Maybe that’s why my dad drove us six hours to church camp every summer.
Maybe that’s why my parents made the thirteen hour trip to our annual camp meeting every October.
Maybe that’s why my dad didn’t complain about the dozens of stamps I consumed every month in my endeavors to stay connected with the twenty-something pen pals I had as a teenager.
Maybe that’s why my frugal dad loaded up the family on a cold day in January to take a seventeen year old kid to pig out on pizza for his birthday.
Because, my friends, preacher’s kids sometimes walk a lonely road.
And if loneliness is tough for adults, it can feel like an emotional death sentence for teenagers.
As a thirty-four year old pastor’s wife, I can look back on my years as a preacher’s kid and think,
Those years prepared me for adulthood. I didn’t enjoy the struggles, but they made me stronger.”
It’s true, those struggles did build spiritual and emotional muscles into my character.
But at thirteen, I just needed stamps so I could send letters to my friends…
At fourteen, I felt insecure about myself and wanted someone to answer the questions I wasn’t even brave enough to ask…
At fifteen, I desperately wanted to feel understood by the women in my life…
At sixteen, a date with my dad would have been worth more than attention from a dozen boyfriends…
At seventeen, I still wasn’t too old for tea parties and day dreams, and someone to share them with…
At eighteen, confidence from someone who believed in me gave me the courage to think large thoughts about the future…
Preacher’s kids are like every other kid.
They crave connection and understanding.
And, somewhere deep inside, they habor the hope of discovering that life is interesting and just a little bit crazy!
As a mom, sometimes I just sit back and shake my head in wonder.
How did the introvert girl with the crazy, social, kid-brother, grow up into a mom with a crazy, extrovert eleven-year old daughter?
God must be smiling down on me as I try to figure this one out.
I can’t tell you how to parent a teenager through the loneliness of ministry life, because I haven’t walked that road as a mom yet.
But I can tell you that, right now, I’m having lots of heart-to-hearts over cups of coffee and tea.
That there are many, early mornings devoted to one-on-one time with my girl, because that’s the only time when the house is quiet enough to hear her think out loud.
That there are lots of times when I look for reasons to laugh, simply because I know how much she craves crazy.
Lots of times when I don’t feel like socializing, but we do… because I know her little butterfly soul was created to share her life and loves.
And, yes, we’ve done a few impromptu pizza runs… and ice cream runs… and birthday runs…
Lord, don’t ever let us just live… help us create LIFE out of this string of days and years.
In the midst of the “aloneness,” help me to intentionally connect.
In the midst of living a set apart life, help me to create freedom for individuality.
In the midst of misunderstanding, help me to discern needs.
In the midst of expectations and obligations, help me extend the gifts of grace and rest.
I don’t want my little Preacher’s Kids to simply look back some day and think, Yeah, those years made me stronger.
I pray they’ll be able to say, Those years taught me to live!
*I affectionately refer to my younger brother as Bub, but that isn’t his real name.