Sunday, July 26, 2009
I'm what you'd call a PK. For those of you who don't know, that stands for "pastor's kid", or "preacher's kid". PK's are usually the most rebellious, loud-mouthed, troublemaking kids you'll ever find. It's quite an interesting phenomena really: if these kids' parents are ministers, their everyday lives must be like living in church 24/7 right? Their lives must be filled with peace, love, good deeds, every adjective that comes to mind when you think of church. So why are they the worst kids, and oftentimes the kids who grow up to have the most messed up lives?
A friend of mine who happens to be a pastor was talking to me recently about some of the issues in my life I've been working through. We grew up together and he was also a PK. "Alma," he said, "people like us, those who grew up in church and were around things of God their whole lives, we have to be very careful about how we look at things. In a way we become vaccinated to a lot of things regarding Christianity early on, and then when we run into problems or particular situations in life, we don't know how to deal with them." I didn't think much of it when he said it but later on I started mulling over this statement. Vaccinated? Vaccinations are supposed to be a good thing aren't they? They help you to become immune to a particular disease. So how do you become vaccinated from God?
I started thinking about this. Had I actually become vaccinated? I realized that through my years of growing up in church, having a dad that was a minister, even going to Bible School; I had developed some interesting presumptions. Here's the thing though: I believe in God, I go to church, I try to help people, I live a clean life. Isn't that enough?
So my reasoning was: I know the Bible pretty well, being the Sunday School champ that I was. I would win every contest there ever was to do with memory verses, Bible Stories, whatever (which made me very unpopular with the other kids, but the favorite of my Sunday School teachers). I went to a Christian University where even in Math class they'd find a way to incorporate the Bible. I actually went to Bible school for 2 years, where I....studied the Bible. I've been on missions trips, led small groups at church, sang in the choir, volunteered in some aspect of church almost my entire life. So according to my resume I must be an expert at all things Bible and Christian Living right?
But I realized that with all those good deeds also came the belief that I really didn't have to make a huge effort to actually read the Bible every day. Part of growing up at my house was "family devotionals" every day, 6 days a week for as long as I can remember. Even on vacations, we'd do them with a Gideon Bible in the hotel or sitting on a log in the campground. Yeah, my dad was that hardcore. So in my mind, I felt that surely I have enough of that stacked up in an "account" somewhere, so I didn't really need to do a daily devotional myself. As far as prayer is concerned, well I say a prayer every now and then throughout the day.....right? I couldn't remember.
As a free-thinking adult, I had striven for "balance" in my life in regards to church and religion. I was finally liberated from the legalism of the church carnival I grew up in and my dad's well-intentioned rigidness. I believed, deep down, that I didn't have to do the typical things that most Christians do to have a relationship with God. When people would mention that they were doing "read the bible in a year" or whatever the new popular devotional was, I'd tell them what a great way to learn about the Bible those things were, but inwardly I didn't think I'd get much value out of it myself. When friends would mention a new Christian artist's CD, a prayer meeting, or even (gasp!) going to church twice on Sunday, I'd smile, but say something like, "that CD sounds cool, but wow, Christian music all starts sounding the same to me after a while" or "oooooo, that's cool but I've done enough 2-service Sundays to last me a lifetime, besides, Sundays are for resting...."
Don't get me wrong, when I would be facing a problem in my life, depending on what it was I'd dust off my Bible and look up a couple of verses. I'd maybe say an actual focused prayer about the problem. I'd eventually get through it, then I'd fall back into my usual way of life. You see, the problem was with all my good-deed-doing I had been missing out on the actual relationship part of why I was supposedly doing all those good deeds. So when a particularly huge problem would come I didn't have any foundation to stand on or any trust in God really built up, so my normal response was to get irritated at why God would let these things happen to me and basically feel really lost and confused.
Part of this current enlightenment process for me was to try to get back to a good place with God after the death of my dad (which is another blog entry entirely!). I knew I needed to change and I had started making some positive changes but I felt stuck and like I was hitting a wall. I needed to try something new. I was tired of feeling confused of why things just didn't seem to work out they way they should if God was supposedly "with me". I know that being a Christian didn't guarantee you a life full of rainbows and butterflies but was it really supposed to be this hard?
So I launched my new experiment. I started reading my Bible, just a little each day. I started praying a small prayer every day and reflecting on my (gasp!) daily devotional. I even started writing verses on note cards and stuck them in my cubicle so I'd be able to look at them throughout the day. The funny thing was, when I would hear people tell me of doing this before, I'd think: "good for them! I can't be that spiritual though..." I even downloaded some actual Christian music to my iphone. Hey, if I was gonna to do this, I was gonna go all in!
So is my life "rainbows and butterflies" now? Hardly. I still have problems. Big ones. I still get overwhelmed on almost a daily basis. But things are different. I feel a different sense of strength, of peace in confronting all those little daily problems that everyday life brings that frustrate so easily. I'm finding it just a little bit easier to let go of things that I know I can't do on my own, that only God knows the outcome and solution to. I'm even discovering things within myself that need changing, qualities that I thought were just quirks that were part of my personality that I had come to accept as "that's just how I am". God's showing me that it's possible for me to become an even better version of myself. And when those bigger problems have come, instead of immediately jumping into major distress mode, I try to stop and say a prayer or look to a promise of God to bring me comfort and hope. I realize my habits are changing, and the whole daily connecting with God is not for us to feel like we're being "good Christians" but it's actually so that we get in the habit of incorporating Him into all those little aspects of our daily lives. This way when the big storms of life come, it's a natural reflex to trust God completely with the problem, instead of just getting blindsided by confusion when things don't turn out the way we think they "should" for a Christian.
So back to the PK phenomenon. I think it's not only a condition of PKs, but of anyone who has been around church for any longer length of time. It's easy to fall into a weird pattern of thinking you are actually growing in your relationship with God if you are "doing all the right things", or at least what you grew up thinking was the way to be a good Christian. I think PKs have a particularly hard time with it because they become so saturated with church and ministry and God in every aspect of their lives that they miss the relationship part. So when their minister parents let them down, or people in church let them down, or when the inevitable big disappointments of this life hit, they don't have a real foundation to stand on. Or they've been so caught up with the "do-ing" of the things they think they need to do for God in order for Him to bless them, they forget that God never intended Christianity to be a job. They get overwhelmed, tired, and eventually feel guilty and frustrated because they can't keep up with the long list of "to-do's" and rules they've come to believe are part of being a Christian. So eventually they end up getting mad or frustrated with God and run in the opposite direction. I know because I've been there.
The vaccination to having been vaccinated? Go back to basics. Do all those little things you think are only for "new" Christians. Invite God into the everyday situations of your daily life. Ask Him to start to show you all the ways He loves you. I think everyone can use some of that. It's easy for our lives and perceptions to get clogged by our or other people's interpretation of how God should be. But I've been discovering some pretty astonishing things when I actually ask God to show me Himself how he wants me to live my life. It doesn't always fit into the mold that I've created for Him throughout the years. A lot of times it doesn't fit into the ways I grew up believing I had to be in order to be a "good" Christian. But I've grown like I never have, I'm overcoming things that I've been trying to conquer for years, and I'm learning how to really trust God in all the little and big aspects of my life. I've realized it's not about formulas, or molds, or if-I-do-this-then-He'll-do-that ways of thinking. It's about connecting with Him and making Him the most important thing so that the things you do are not out of obligation but out of love. That's the way God behaves towards us and I believe how He wants us to react to Him.