Daddy's voice boomed through the small building. I sat at his feet, dressed in my Easter best. I put my thumb in my mouth and reached up to twist my hair. Mommy smiled at me from the front row. Daddy got quieter and picked me up. He said something about gifts from God. I liked presentsI hoped I would get a stuffed kitty cat.
Daddy gave me back to Mommy and kept talking to the people. They seemed to like him. Some of them said, "Yes" and "Amen" when he paused. They even clapped and cheered once. I never got a present, though.
At home, Daddy was my best playmate. He tickled, teased and chased Joey and me through the house shouting, "Fee fi fo fum!" He hid behind doors to surprise us. Sometimes we were naughty and Daddy would punish usit made him look sad. I hated time-outs and spankings, but I hated making Daddy sad even more.
Church was our second home. Joey and I knew every hiding spot. We raided the kitchen for snacks, drew on the chalkboards, and sang on the altar. Sometimes Joey pretended to preach. He would get up front and march back and forth shouting that God loves everyone. We set up toys from the nursery to listen to his sermons. I'd shout, "Yes" and "Amen" when he paused. Sometimes Daddy would come in to listen and laugh with us. He said Joey would make a fine pastor some day.
Years passed and Joey and I grew up. Spending hours at the church was no longer a grand adventure. Pretending to preach and sing was boring. We brought movies and video games to pass the time, but they got old quick.
We conspired to spend most of our time with friends, and had Mom running us to music and sports after school.
Even service grew boring. We'd heard the stories a million times. Every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night was the same. I wished we could just stay home.
It grew harder to behave. Joey and I were always in trouble. Dad spent more time lecturing us than playing with us. I didn't like the hurt, angry look he wore. I avoided him, hiding out in my room to read and talk on the phone.
Suddenly, it seemed the whole church was against me. I had been their darling, "Pastor Dan's princess." Now I was a problem, a rebel. Joey was even worse.
One night Dad came home early. Without saying a word, he switched off the TV in the middle of Joey's video game. He strode across the living room, took the phone from my hand and told Cassie I'd call her back later. Then he called mom and told us all to sit down.
"It's time we made some changes around here," he said. His voice was shaking. "I have wanted to be a pastor since I was ten years old. I've never imagined doing anything else. I love God and I love his people, but I love you too."
He cleared his throat. "What I didn't realize when I became a pastor is that I cannot accomplish this work on my own. When I married and had children, you became ministers with me."
Joey and I looked at each other, disbelief plainly written in our expressions. Us?
"Are you aware that a pastor is judged by how well he leads his family?"
I shook my head, but Joey said, "Yes," in a quiet voice.
Dad picked up his Bible and read, "1 Timothy 3:4-5, He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church?"*
I swallowed hard and glanced at Joey. His face was pink.
"Children, as pastors we live on display. Our church and community are watching us. When we fail, they doubt. It is hard to live on stage, and this morning I realized that no one ever asked you if you wanted it."
A wave of love crashed over me, washing my anger and frustration away. Dad understood and cared about my feelings. A sweet certainty filled me as I considered that I was part of God's plan for my family, church and community.
Tears filled my eyes as I looked at my father. At almost the same moment, Joey and I said, "I do."
Debbie O'Connor lives just north of New Orleans with her husband, Jim, and their two children. Jesus has been her savior for 18 years. Contact Debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.