This may help other families in Christian ministry to never put their children last even if they are leaders in the church.
There comes a time as a parent that you have to own up to your parenting skills good or bad. First let me say, I am very proud of all my children and their good character. I cannot say that I was the most attentive parent or the perfect mother, but I believe that my children did pick up some good things through the love they have seen in our home, our Christian character and a sense of right and wrong they can carry with them as they go through life.
However, the first child, as someone once said, is always the guinea pig. As parents we know that each child is different, you don’t always know what to do. Being in the public eye does not change or enhance your parenting skills, it only makes them harder, because everyone is watching and critiquing. That’s just life. People always place a target on people that are up teaching other people–the subject doesn’t matter. It can be anything from the Bible to a cooking class. When you teach, people feel they get to criticize your life’s details. My husband and I were trying to figure parenting out ourselves. Right now, we still have children at home. Sadly, the most parenting advice we heard around our church was to discipline children with the rod or we’d hear nothing at all. So we were left to ask friends, relatives like anyone else. Finally, a preacher in our group said across the pulpit, “preachers children are the most criticized and usually are worse than the average, Why? Because the people require so much time of the minister, they don’t have time for their own families”.
To My Daughter:
I love God, I think you know that and believe that about me. But as a female minister in our church, there had been for years very little understanding of the balance between home and serving God. In our religion, even though we talked about home being first, in practice it was probably about the third or fourth on the list after, worshipping God, serving our Pastors and the church. Teaching balance was an area in which our church that was woefully lacking and has been for probably the last 20 years. It all seemed to fall apart around the time you were born. So when God called your mom to preach, I began to feel extreme pressure to conform to what people expected me and my family to be and do. It was as if I never married or had a child. I didn’t want to slow down because I loved God and the church, but also there was another element pushing me. If you did not conform, you could not function because you were not going to be considered a good saint. Sweetheart, you grew up during a time that the older Pastors and Teachers, like the one who made the above statement, had passed away. The new set, seem to not understand this at all. There seemed no room for special situations, mostly because leadership failed to understand women and mothers’ roles in the home.
When your brother was born and was two years old, he stood on the seats in church. The usher came by and asked your father to please not allow him to stand on the seat. Dad complied and said “sorry, I’ll watch it but he’s just a child”. The usher said, “but he’s a Church of God child and he’s a minister’s child” as if there was special DNA that would make him different from any other child. One time, you had gotten distracted and pushed past an elderly saint at 5 years old because you were active. You were quickly branded as a “difficult” child. I was told that the instant I spoke, you should fall in line. Sometimes you did, but there were other times, like any normal child that you didn’t.
If I had been a nobody, maybe this would not have happened. But, I was the only female preacher with small children. Leadership at the time expected me to do what male ministers did– leave everything to their spouse. However, my spouse was a man, and often he was treated oddly, to say the least. I don’t think they knew what to do with our dynamic. They didn’t seem to realize that directives for him in scripture were totally different. A totally different role in the home. He was often working and providing, and sometimes, so was I and we all know children expect love differently from their mothers. The leadership of the last 20 years has never realized that and often instilled in the people that “one size fits all” mentality. I’m not angry at them, it was just limited understanding. Unfortunately, in trying to conform, you became collateral damage. My decisions, caused you suffering. For that, I am so sorry.
I was feeling the pressure to be a perfect mother in a system that didn’t really understand putting the home first at all. We had services 4 times a week, street meetings, home bible studies and if you were late, that was not good, if you were not there, that was seen as even worse. You were too young to understand the pressure I was under to “be an example”. But you were there at every meeting, road trip, and bible study until I had your brother. This is what I was taught. However, as a looked at the “examples” around me. So many of them seemed to be failing with their families as well under this type of religious practice. As I look around, so many children in our religion have been bitter about their neglect.
As I valued my life more, got closer to God and listened to Him more, I realized that Christ was our only “perfect” example and he never called on any person to take that place. I remember my former Pastor and his assistant saying that he regretted not spending more time with their families. I keep hearing all these regrets, but the system never changes. My husband always said that if you want to see if a practice or teaching is godly, look at the fruit. It’s worked ok for some, but others not so much.
It was not Christ’s intention in giving me the gift of preaching and teaching to help other people and lose you. So please don’t blame God. Yes, my Christian character should be above reproach but I cannot be Jesus for people. I was never supposed to be. I’m just me, your mom.
I remember that a woman Pastor in our group was asked what would she do if she had children because she was still young. She said,” I guess I’d have to slow down”. That’s reality for a wife and mother. Sadly, not many people in our group made any distinctions so we just took children with us everywhere. Sometimes the results were good for them, but sometimes not, depending on the child. And often the parents made no distinctions about the needs of their particular children to treat them as individuals. Cookie-cutter parenting.
My dear daughter, you’ve been through a lot and I know we love each other as we talked this out this weekend. I am more focused on Jesus in my life and less on people. I know in my heart what God wants me to do in my home even if others do not understand those directives in scripture. I know I am taking the godly path for a woman of God to care for her children and her home.
There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. (I Corinthians 7:34)
4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.(Titus 2:4, 5)
I remember when you were seven and I apologized to you for being so harsh. Right there, I listened to God. He told me NOT to continue with the advice I was being given to “bring you in line”. You were not “bad” by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, most people I knew thought you were lovely and mannerable. But often, because of my position, that was not enough, or rather I was made to feel that was not enough. And so, I told you how sorry mommy was for the way I talked to you, corrected you and sent you the message that you were not good enough no matter what you did. I could see the wall that was coming between us. I tried to repair it by going on mother/daughter weekends together, and you appreciated that, but a lot of damage to your self-esteem had been done already.
We were both robbed. We didn’t really get to enjoy each other like we do now, and that childhood time is gone. When you are away now, I really miss you. I never really got to enjoy and embrace you as a person. As you know, I am trying to do better with your brothers and be there for them.
We never had this conversation until this weekend. Thank you for your forgiveness.
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