We all laughed a bit as we continued to tease her. She was an outcast, not as cool as the rest of us. We were loitering in the halls, sneaking vending machine purchases that our parents forbade, lest we break the Sabbath day. She looked like she was about to cry.
“You guys are so mean! And especially you two!” She pointed right at my sister and me. “You guys are the Pastor’s daughter’s! You are supposed to be nice!”
My sister and I had just participated in mild bullying only by observation, but with the position of a “Pastor’s Daughter” hanging over our head, the expectation was always much more severe. We set expectations for behaviors of others, with our own good behavior. Our lives were looked at as a good example, what other children in the church would be held to. When we were allowed to get our ears pierced, the rest of the girls showed up their ears pierced. Our good manners and ability to maturely interact with adults was the bar that the other parents felt pressured to have their children live up to.
I lived in the spotlight. Every move was judged. My father stopped in the middle of sermons to correct the way I was sitting in front of the whole congregation. When we had even mediocre behavior we were judged and talked about endlessly. When visiting other churches, upon learning my last name, the tone and posture of the conversation would change instantly.
As a pastor’s daughter, if I wasn’t the female Jesus, church members started throwing stones. I grew to the point of clinging to a fake perfection, dodging the stones and flashing fake religion. It was intense.
On the flip side of my experience, when the church had “really bad” visitors stopping by, they were viewed as some sort of hero, for giving God a shot at their lives. They were met with open arms and forgiveness, and then paraded around for the rest of the world to see how accepting the church was.
I was kicked out of my parent’s home at the age of 18. I began to visit some churches that were outside of our circle, less strict. I would get done with my weekend job of stripping, throw some clothes on, and head to church. Going straight from a strip club into a church service, I was met with open arms. I transitioned from the highest expectation to the lowest. No one knew where I was coming from; whether it be from a pastor’s family, or the strip club, but I dressed a bit closer to the later. I was able to feel the embrace.
Jesus tell us that He did not come to call the righteous in Luke 5:32. In some cases the church has taken that to such an extreme that we have abandoned those that silently stumble and struggle right before our eyes. Recently when meeting with a client, I answered his question of when I was saved. I told him I was saved at the age of 14. He chuckled, and then asked me when I fell away. I then took my turn chuckling and proceeded to answer that question. This client has no idea of my past, but there is definitely a pattern with the second generation Christians today. It seems as though our second generation Christians tolerate the church for as long as they can before rebelling and then hopefully experiencing the grace that scoops them into the arms of Jesus after hitting rock bottom.
What if we started to recognize the abundant grace that is given to those that don’t fall to the wayside? What kind of grace is more amazing than the grace of a steady walk with the Savior? How about the grace that keeps you by the Almighty’s side, and does let your foot stumble. So my friends, as you reach out to the sinners, to the sick, and to the needy, look to those standing right next to you. Praise God for picking me up from my glaring darkness, and praise God for granting others the grace to avert the darkness.