First Sunday In August

I have some memories about the first Sunday in August.   

Growing up as a preachers kid in Georgia, this particular Sunday signaled the beginning of a new church year in our church organization.   Six times while I was living at home, this was our first Sunday at a new church.  Meeting people I had never met before and being guarded about what I did and what I said.  It was a fish bowl existence for me and probably the main reason I have an introverted personality today.  Even now, it takes me a while to warm up to new people or a new place.  I am also careful to not open up too much too soon. 

There are some things we learned about these experiences.  

  • The first person to tell you all the problems of a church was always the one that was the troublemaker.  I remember at one church we had barely got moved into the parsonage before someone came and told us about the problems of the church.  That was the person who turned out to be the problem.  
  • You learn to be very observant and know the motives of people.  Just watch and it doesn’t take long until their true colors come out.  You would assume that you shouldn’t have to think about these things with church people but the reality can be very sobering.  
  • People who bragged on themselves and what they did in the church were usually the ones that you couldn’t get to do anything after the “honeymoon period” was over.   Some people just simply resist submitting to authority.  They don’t want a pastor to lead them.

I know it sounds negative but I’m just telling you the experience I had with this.  Opinions will vary depending on who you ask but I know other preacher’s kids who had very similar experiences.  It just always amazed me how things developed from that first Sunday.   God – and people – work in mysterious ways.

If I can be totally transparent with you, I would have to admit the worst first Sunday experience was in a tiny community church in Axson, Georgia.  Man, those folks were tough and the kids my age didn’t cut me any slack at all.  They made fun of me and keep me as the outsider.  On the other end of the first Sunday in August was the first Sunday in Villa Rica.  The kids there accepted me from the first time we met.  Both of those experiences have stayed with me even today.  I look at some fondly and others not so much.  

Thankfully I don’t have to deal with the first Sunday of August the same anymore.  

Scars Behind The Pulpit

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It was a year ago today that my mother passed away.  I know it’s a cliché but it’s hard to believe that she’s gone.

My mother had a lot of scars.  They were scars you couldn’t see on the outside.

She grew up as a preacher’s kid along with her other five sisters.  (She is pictured above in the lower right)  She used to tell the story of how she never wanted to marry a preacher yet in twist of fate she ended up being married to one and spent many years being the preacher’s wife.  Of course, that made me a preacher’s kid when I came along.

Being a preacher’s wife is not the glamorous life for many.  It’s a life where you have to put on a face and live the way your are EXPECTED to live.  Everything you do is magnified, especially the negative.  My mother endured at many churches.   If you think being the first-lady of a church is filled with people who are the true model of Christians, think again.  There are many good people but there are many others who judge the preacher’s wife unfairly or discover that she is human with her own flaws, quirks and pains.

Being “ON” every service is not the easiest thing to do.  Preacher’s wives will be watched all the time and you are expected to be everything to everyone.  It would surprise you the things people do and say.  My mother took it all.  She heard the criticisms of my father and me from others as well.  As you know, it’s hard enough to be criticized but when people criticize the ones you love it’s even more difficult.

Yet you’re supposed to keep the smile on your face…..even if you suffer from migraine headaches.  My mother suffered a lot with those headaches and church members were mostly unsympathetic about her pain since it was “just” a headache or even that she wasn’t healed.  Yet, they would often complain about the slightest ailment and expect to be coddled.  The empathy for pain never seemed to work both ways.

In thinking about my mother’s life, I think the breaking point came in June 1989 when her father died.  She was never the same after that.  In addition to her headaches, her heart broke.  I will never know fully what she went through.   Our relationship suffered too.  Several times she told me how sad she was and how she wish she could just die to be with her daddy.  I believed that pain was a dark cloud over her the rest of her life.

I never desired to become a preacher myself although many people tried to call me.   I saw too much on how it was more than just preaching a sermon behind a pulpit every Sunday morning.  A preacher’s calling affects the entire family.

A year ago when I read on Facebook that my mother had passed away.  I hated every church member that ever mistreated her and the scar it left inside of her and how it affected the rest of her life.  I cursed the cult that we were associated with and glad that I was no longer a part of it.  I talked to God a lot during these days last year.  As the days passed, I began to think of how her pain has now turned to gain for where she is now.  No more physical pain and the scars in her heart are healed by the master physician.

A preacher’s wife is not the carbon copy of the mother of Jesus.   She is human and at times, she’s not going to feel like putting on the face.   Cut her some slack.  Don’t be so mean.  If you can’t say something encouraging then don’t say anything at all.  She has feelings just like you do.  You have no idea if she is at a breaking point or what she is dealing with inside.

If you are considering marrying a preacher – especially pastor of a church – consider it very carefully.   While it is a noble and honorable desire to support someone you love in the ministry, you need to be aware of these:

  • Prepare for criticism.
  • You will be watched all the time.
  • Believe it or not, there are some really mean people who claim to be Christians.
  • Your husband will need you to be his cheerleader much more than in most any other profession.
  • Create a safe place for you and your family.
  • Don’t neglect your own time with God.

If you are already a preacher’s wife, I would say for you to be strong and stay the course.  Never, ever compromise on being yourself.  Understand that you will never make everyone happy.  Also keep in mind that other people’s opinion of you is not as important as God’s opinion of you.  Be quick to forgive and let things go.

I hope that the words to this song is true for my mother today:

“So, I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down.  I will cling to the old rugged Cross.  And exchange it some day for a crown.”