Sunday, August 16, 2015

Glass Houses and Fish Bowls

There's an old saying, "Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." The meaning behind it is that basically we all have similar struggles, so we shouldn't criticize each other.  If we could all see what it's like day in and day out in each other's homes, we'd see that some things are familiar. Or that we'd happily keep our own problems after watching others'.  We'd most definitely understand each other better. 

But if you're a ministry family like we are, the term "glass house" means something a little different. When you're a pastor or pastor's wife or pastor's kid, life can feel a bit like being in a fishbowl (or a glass house.) Life at church can feel different. Life outside of church is also different.  Expectations, whether intentional or not, whether realistic or not, are often put on ministry families. And while yes, it is biblical (read James 3:1) for higher standards to be placed on those who teach in the church, and there should be, I'm concerned about the effects of that on pastors' kids. Not on the higher standard part, because God called us to that, but the expectations part? That's different. That's where our flesh can take over if we're not careful. 

These are our three boys. They are awesome. They are smart. They are hilarious. They love each other. They are creative. They are athletic. They are darling. They are thoughtful and happy. They are each a unique, much-prayed-for gift. 
But also? They fight. They get tired of each other. They roll their eyes. They talk back. They forget to do their homework. They leave a trail of food, clothes, Legos, books, games, Nerf guns, shoes, etc. wherever they go. They don't always know the right answer in Sunday school. They squirm and wiggle in church. 

They're pastor's kids. 

My point in this? They're not perfect. They are trying to figure out this world just like every other kid is. Just like most (read: all) adults are. None of us get it right all the time. Thankfully, they know all about the incredible gift that is God's grace, because it's something we've taught them; something we've learned that we need every single day. Every day is a chance to do things better. To learn something new. To forgive and start again. That's what Grace does. They know that our house is their home base~ their safe place to just be themselves. To learn and grow and make mistakes. 

In our family we try hard to make sure their lives are balanced. We don't always get that right. But they know the huge importance of church life~ of connecting with other believers, building strong friendships, learning how to share God's love with others. They love going to church. 

But we've also shown them that their school and extracurricular activities are important opportunities to minister while building friendships, so we've allowed them to miss church things here and there because of games or other commitments. Our hope is to prevent bitterness down the road from feelings that they had to be at church every time the door was open...because when they're old enough to make the decision themselves, we want them to want to go to church. Not because they're pastor's kids, but because they are Christ-believing men who want to continue to grow and serve. 
So when we sent this one off to church camp this summer...
....the last thing we expected to hear when he came home on Friday was that he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. We were completely caught off guard. You see, as far as we knew he had already done that at the age of 5. 

As his mom, who has a tendency to worry/overreact/blame myself for, well, just about everything (I'm working on it...really) my first thought was not "this is incredible! I'm so thankful and happy and relieved." Rest assured, that came later. But my first? Sadly, it was "What are people going to think?" followed closely behind with "How did I not know?"

Yeah...not my best moment, although I did a decent job of keeping my shock hidden. But as we hugged him and listened to him tell the story about what God did in His life that week, my heart nearly exploded with joy. There was a light in his eyes I hadn't seen in awhile, something I had chalked up to normal teenage hormones and sadness about our recent move. But no, it was something much bigger than that. Something so much better. 

Later the next week I asked him what the difference was between now and when he was 5, and his reply will stick with me forever. He said, "Back then I thought it was what I was supposed to do because I'm a pastor's kid...but I didn't understand what it really meant then. Now I know I don't have to worry about what everyone thinks. God got ahold of my heart in a very real way, and I want to follow Him." 
We talked about that pressure he felt as a PK, and I asked where he felt it coming from. His answer surprised me: he said it was from himself. And that sometimes he notices people watching him and he's not always sure what to do with that. I told him I feel the same way sometimes, but that God is teaching me to tune that out and do my thing and keep my eyes on Him. The rest will work itself out. Hopefully that helped. We're figuring it out as a family. 

This morning he was baptized by his dad and his youth minister, Pat. We are so thankful for the impact Pat has had on Harrison's life in the few short months we've been here. And there's nothing cooler than watching your husband baptize your son. 
In our 6 months here, God has already opened doors and answered prayers beyond our wildest imaginations. I still get emotional nearly every week because I'm so happy He brought us here. I don't ever want to forget what that feels like. Ever. My prayer for this post is that it wouldn't sound like complaining, because that's not my heart. But I think it's important that honest conversations like this are happening. That if you too are in the ministry, maybe this helped. Maybe you have advice for us. That if you're not, maybe you'll have a better understanding of what it's like for families like ours....the good parts and the hard parts. That if we could step into each other's shoes and gain a better understanding, the world would be a happier, healthier place. I am so incredibly thankful that God called Brian into the ministry, thrilled that I get the privilege of joining him in that, and that our boys are being raised this way.  
And the more I think about it, fish don't seem to pay much attention to who's watching them swim around their bowl anyway. They just keep doing what they know to do. Smart fish.