Val, a Pastor's Kid
I have been a Pastor’s Kid (PK) my entire life. There are a lot of things people may not know about this lifestyle, especially when it comes to the trials we face. You may be thinking, “Val, you come from a healthy family, a healthy upbringing, a healthy church. What trials could you possibly face? How extreme could those trials possibly be?” Just because I had a good upbringing doesn’t mean I never experienced any hardships. I live in a world where the devil has come to steal, kill and destroy. Everyone experiences their own degree of trials, even PKs.
Don’t get me wrong, being a PK comes with a lot of positive aspects. One example being, throughout the years, many people within our church have abundantly blessed my family and I. We were invited to meet President George W. Bush when he was in office, invited on vacations, given financial gifts, and much more. Because of my parents’s decision to follow God’s calling to be pastors, I am able to reap the harvest and share in their blessings. Having that spiritual role in so many lives, my parents have had a great influence on a great number of people throughout the years, influencing positive change with the help of God. It’s not something they expect or assume they deserve because of their position. I think I can speak on their behalf and say that it’s an incredible honor to serve God’s people and we often find ourselves overwhelmed with gratitude from the many blessings people shower on us.
Being a Pastor’s Kid is not always easy, though. There are often high pressures and high expectations. My mom and dad never demanded I act a certain way because I’m a PK. However, in the past and even today, I have struggled with feeling a pressure to act holy and to never sin. It is a pressure put on me by myself in fear of having people doubt my parents’s ability to lead our church. If people were to find out about my sin, would they see my parents as failures and hypocrites? Would they be disappointed in me and question how I could be OK with sinning as a PK? I should know better, right? I know this way of thinking is incorrect and that people would love me regardless. However, the enemy likes to get inside my head causing me to place unachievable expectations over myself, fearing the opinions of others. As I continue to grow in my relationship with God, I am better understanding that I am only human and we all mess up at times, but by the grace of God, we are forgiven. He shows me His love every single day and has introduced me to some amazing people who have helped me to overcome sin and who have helped me fight through trials, without the judgement I initially feared. I still feel that unintentional pressure at times, but God’s working on that with me. There is progress!
In a church, it is natural for people to come and go. It happens, whether for good reasons or bad. Though, what most people don’t realize is that pastors and their families have a front row seat to those losses and feel them a little closer to home compared to everyone else. We’ve had people leave on good notes and we, as a church, have been able to celebrate with them and bless them, sending them off to do bigger and greater things for the kingdom of God. We’ve also had people leave on bad notes, hurting us in the process. It’s hard not to take those attacks on my parents, people lying to our faces, or people using us for their own gain personally and feel completely rejected because of it. It’s hard not to get angry and bitter when someone is attacking my dad for being a pastor and threatening him to the point where we have to put security cameras around our home for protection. It’s hard not to bottle the resentment, sadness, etc. and act as if none of it affected me. For the longest time, I never realized the influence these things had on me and I was completely unaware of any issues that had resulted because of it. Then, one day, God opened my eyes.
Anxiety was physically crippling me, sin was occurring more than it should’ve, and there was no end in sight to any of it because I feared seeking help and being judged as a PK because of it. Then, out of the blue, God spoke to me and gave me a promise regarding my future. Realizing what He had just promised, anxiety began to rise. The enemy began to pour lies into my head about how it was never going to happen, I would never get through what I was dealing with to obtain that promise, it wasn’t actually God speaking, and so on. I began to get angry because I realized there was something wrong. Anxiety was not of God, so why was I experiencing it? Why was I so afraid to open up to people? Why did it feel as if there were a million walls between me and the world? I sought help from one of the leaders in my church, Anna, immediately because I wanted to experience, in His timing, the promise God had given me. Of course I was nervous as heck because asking for help and opening up was the opposite of anything I was comfortable with, but I knew changes needed to be made. While talking with her and being honest about everything, she recommended I see a therapist because what I was facing was more complex than what she knew how to help me with.
The big “T” word. Yes, Valerie Parrish, a Pastor’s Kid, saw a therapist. Anna helped me along the way because this was a difficult step for me. I sat on a couch across from the therapist, a complete stranger, and was expected to tell him all of my deepest, darkest secrets. There were a lot of awkward silences, a lot of suppressed emotions and memories brought to surface, and a lot of difficult breakdowns. I’d often leave the session, get in my car and break down crying, not wanting to go back. Sometimes I wouldn’t even make it to my car before I started crying. But, I kept going back and over the four to five month period of visiting my therapist, God helped me make incredible progress, opening my eyes to certain things regarding my past.
The most reoccurring theme while talking to my therapist was rejection and my inability to be vulnerable with people because of it. As a therapeutic exercise, I wrote down every major memory I had that hurt me. The purpose was to release all of the suppressed emotions that resulted from them. It took me a couple weeks to do because I’d get through writing down a couple memories and would have to stop because I was emotionally wore out and ugly crying. Looking back at what I wrote, I counted almost 50 major and vivid memories of rejection, lies and betrayal within my teenage and young adult years. There were 50 memories of people lying to my face about who they were behind closed doors, people telling me I wasn’t enough for them anymore, people canceling long planned-in-advance hangouts for a more exciting option that came up last minute, people who I considered family telling me I wasn’t family to them, me hiding in bathroom stalls before school started because my friends abandoned me and I didn’t want to be seen alone, people asking me to help them find a best friend for themselves while that whole time I thought we were best friends, and other memories along those lines.
I reached down into my heart, grabbed on to those memories, relived them, and released them. It hurt a lot, but God was there beside me the entire time. As I was digging out those memories from deep within my heart, he took them from me, healing me of the pain they caused. I’ve been able to forgive those people and release the pain, giving it all to God. He is continuously working on my heart, removing the bitterness and softening it with His gentleness. People will come and go. There will be disappointment, rejection, and heartache in the future, but I know God will always be there to carry me through it. He will continue to show me His love through it all, while also showing me how to love people regardless of their actions. I pray that God continues to help me be gracious towards others, forgiving and loving them always.
For myself, I could not imagine a better family lifestyle to be born into. I’ve loved all of the opportunities we’ve had, I love the things we get to be involved with, the people we get to serve, and the ability to live for God alongside my family. In all of this, our family has grown stronger together and individually. We’ve learned how to fight, how to pick ourselves up when we get knocked down, how to rise above the trials, and how to link arms with each other to withstand the storm. We’ve also been able to share in God’s blessings together and witness incredible miracles together. Sure, there are some negatives to being a PK, but ultimately I would have it no other way. I know God will always be there for me in anything I face. He is my Healer, Protector, Giver, and Restorer. He is who I love with all of my heart and, “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him” (Psalm 91:2).