My dad tells this story from when I was five years old. He was teaching me and my two sisters about the Garden of Eden. In the middle of the story, I interrupted, “Wait, if God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat from the tree, why’d he put it in the garden?” And thus my impulsively inquisitive nature reared its head.

Such questions and concerns have never quite left me. I’ve always felt the need to ask why? until I get a sufficient answer. I consider this a gift now. Curiosity and questioning are what have led me to deeper truths about God and about myself and others. But when you grow up as a pastor’s daughter, there are expectations.

My father, Max, has been the pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio for almost 30 years—my entire life. I do not know life apart from church and apart from being a visible member of the church. For the most part, this has been a wonderful and enriching place for me and my growth as a believer in Jesus. But somewhere along the way, while being raised in front of the congregation’s eye, I began to carry the weight of expectations. I needed to act a certain way. I need to look a certain way. And, I needed to believe a certain way. My faith needed to be strong like my mother’s and father’s. It needed to match my poised exterior.

So I kept my doubts to myself. I talked to my parents about them, but few others. I grew inward in my faith. I kept it private for fear of others knowing that I asked questions like that one when I was five years old.

In the church of my childhood, and still today, there is a prayer time at the end of the service. Several members of the congregation called “prayer partners” line the front of the auditorium, and the rest of the church body is invited to come forward for prayer. No one told me I shouldn’t go forward for prayer during that time, but because I had internalized those faith expectations, I didn’t think I was allowed to. I never even considered it. Not once.

What would people think if I, Andrea Lucado, went forward for prayer? They would think my prayer life was not strong enough on its own. They would think something was wrong with me or my family. I saved the prayer partners for those who were brave enough to be prayed over in public.

I wonder if this happens to other pastors’ kids. If somehow in the midst of all of the church people we know, we end up living private spiritual lives. I had quiet times. I read and studied and prayed, but I did so alone.

I lived my private spiritual life for as long as I could, until it didn’t work anymore. Until the doubts grew overwhelming.

I moved to Oxford the fall after I graduated college. I went there for a master’s program in English literature at a school called Oxford-Brookes. During the year I was there, the questions that had been rumbling beneath the surface came out in full bloom. The world of Oxford academia will do that to you. Being plucked out of the Bible Belt and dropped into post-Christian Europe will do that to you. Being the only Christian in your class for the first time in your life will do that to you.

Why do I believe what I believe?

Would I still be a Christian if I had not been raised in a Christian home?

Why do the atheist and agnostics I know seem more peaceful and loving than many of the Christians I know?

These questions swirled round and round in my head. My nights turned restless with them. And my quiet times, the ones I had been faithfully keeping since high school? They turned, well, quiet. So quiet that they only echoed my own voice back to me. “Anyone out there? Anyone out there? Anyone?”

What I wanted instead, what I needed, wasn’t God, but someone, a physical real-person someone, to show me the way. I wanted to talk to someone who I knew was talking to God, even if I couldn’t or just didn’t want to.

I found that in a friend in Oxford. He was kind. He was fun. And his faith was not in turmoil as mine was. He had a steadiness to him that I craved. We didn’t talk much about my own faith. We went on walks and ate out at restaurants and drank tea on my couch to keep our hands warm in the winter months. It seemed that being near him was exactly what I needed that year. I needed to simply talk to someone who was talking to God.

The people who talk to God, as I learned, can do a lot for you and for your faith if you let them. I once heard author and pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber speak. During the question and answer session at the end, a guy stood up and said, “I had faith and it was strong, but now I’m doubting. I feel weak in my faith. What should I do?”

Bolz-Weber’s suggestion? “You can take a break now. Let someone else on the pew be strong for you.”

I like this idea of giving each other permission to take a break from trying and let the others on the pew be strong for us for a little while. This is not something I gave myself permission to do growing up as a pastor’s daughter, but it is something I am a strong advocate for now.

I left Oxford with a deeper faith than I had when I arrived. The restless nights eventually led to a knowing and a peace, largely due to that friend and a few others on the pew I let be strong for me for a while.

I still find it difficult to go forward in church for prayer. I default to keeping up appearances and appearing strong and fine, but I’m getting there. God has been gentle and patient with me and I hope that one day, when the pastor calls for the time of prayer, I’ll be the first running down the aisle.

© Andrea Lucado, 2017 

Andrea Lucado is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. She is the author of English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith and blogs regularly at AndreaLucado.com. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter: @andrealucado.

 

23 comments on “When a Pastor’s Kid Doubts Her Faith

  1. I love your article. I love your honesty. When we are honest, it encourages others in their struggles. Thank you.

  2. This is path I am on frequently. Thank you for putting words to my thoughts and feelings. I am blessed to have my church family to go to on Sunday’s.

  3. I found this article interesting and greatly enlightening. I am not a PK myself, but my mother was and have heard her speak of the circumstances you mention. While I understand the theoretical concept of taking a break and letting someone else be strong, I am having trouble connecting the dots from that to eventual deeper faith. What is the practical application of the concept? Just being on the presence of another brother or sister in Christ?

  4. God bless you! Always know that God knows every detail about you including doubts. Most Believers doubt even after years of knowing Him… I believe it’s normal… we are human ☺️. God knows & leads us to the truth when are hearts are His & seeking Him. Personally it assures me every time of Who He is & how blessed I am for His presence in my life.

    Eternally grateful,

    Chris Cortez

  5. Andrea, I so appreciate your honesty! I am married to a “preacher’s kid”. There is a lot of baggage. It is unfortunate that so much of your life you’ve been on “display”. Sad, but true nonetheless. Without your Oxford experience you wouldn’t have grown into the peaceful person in Christ you are becoming. I applaud you!!!! Keep growing and sharing. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. As a now 78 year old great grandmother and a daughter of a pastor, I totally can relate . Within the past few years so many of my questions have been resolved with the exception of one which is,” why are those who call themselves “Christian” so mean and ugly to those whom they disagree with?” I’m still struggling with this one..

  7. Thank you for being so frank. As a Pastor’s wife I was acutely aware of the pressure ony children. The church expects much more from the pastor’s family yet we struggle with the same issues. I have loved your dad’s writing for many years and I look forward to getting to know your writing.

  8. Thank you so much for having the courage to speak up (and to write it with such a unique, beautiful way) You are the voice of thousands who feel exactly the same. My struggle is to have a strong faith so my parents (I’m married, I am a mom and I’m still looking for my parent’s approval) keep thinking I’m the perfect daughter. I don’t want my son to feel that pressure with me.
    God is opening my heart to love Him above my need of approval. I hope that one day, I attend my church without looking for my parents and wanting them to see me there.

  9. I as well am an adult daughter of a pastor and felt many of the same feelings as you did. The expectations of being ‘the preacher’a kid’ haunted me more and more as I grew into my teenage years. It was later in my adult life before I could let go of the ‘I have to be perfect’ complex and let God take control. It was a matter of letting God, overy time, work on me. Now Jesus is my peace!

  10. As a 31 year old whose dad is a pastor and has been since I was five, I can totally relate to this. I needed to read this, because I seem to be having a crisis of faith right now. If anyone reads this, please pray for me.

  11. What is meant by “mean and ugly”? Could it be that we expect christians to be more agreeable? Maybe we just think of meek and mild as never having to rock the boat but I think the early christians and Jesus rocked the boat plenty of times. I have found a lot of times when someone disagrees with us, we tend to take it personally.

  12. As a seminary student even I struggle. The fight is real thanks to Satan but what you share here is brave so I do believe 1 day you’ll make it down that aisle asking for prayer. Be blessed!

  13. Oh my, I do identify! Being a PK myself, I was expected to Believe, Behave, and Don’t Embarress Me, (my first chapter of my book to be). Yet, God has covered me all these years and given me grace to have grace. My heart has always thought there has to be more. So glad that I’m not the only PK feeling this way. God is so patient and loving.

  14. Thank you, Andrea! I am a pastor’s wife and am excited to share this with my tween daughter.

  15. great article……I can identify. Not a preachers kid , but born and raised on the church pew. I laughingly tell people that I was born a Christian, and we know the truth about that story. I had my own times in life when I had serious doubts between me and God. I am 77years old , and just in the last 20 yrs. have I become deeply rooted in my faith. This article needs to be read by all as I think we all are weak in our faith at times and seasons of our life. Thanks …. Norma

  16. Thank you for such insightful words and gracious transparency. I am a pastors kid, have been a pastor in okc for 35 years, and have helped a great wife raise three pastor’s kids. Your story is similar to mine as well as my family. I wish Christians would demonstrate to the world how we can disagree with kindness. Sad how many Christians are “right” and the rest of us wrong. Thank you!

  17. I was not raised in a Christian home. But I learned about expectations. When I became a Christian, that habit of expectations continued in my Christian walk. 50 yrs later, I have learned that there are hills and valleys, quiet and exuberance, feeling and no feeling. The key is to keep talking to Jesus and ask Him about His Word and your life. He is often leading us when we don’t think he is. Yours is a true, living expression of your faith, just as was Christ’s. Praise God. Keep walking and talking to Him!.

  18. Another PK here – will always be – I go to a church where my Dad was Pastor. He is retired now but goes to my church when he and Mom are here for the summer.
    This article gave me some insight as to why I have those kinds of thoughts during an altar call. I have gone forward several times through the years but I do have those thoughts ,”They will think there’s some kind of big problem “. It depends on what kind of altar call it is.
    Doubts are normal but need to be handled wisely. My parents never freaked out – at least they didn’t show it. I think that goes for yourself too – don’t freak out on yourself! Find one of your respected Christian friends and ask away. There are also great resources here on the Web too. I really like gotquestions.org. I direct my son there often when I feel at a loss , which is fairly often.
    Why do atheists appear to be kinder and
    have more peace ? Good question. I think the answer lies somewhere with our Enemy. It is false though. Maybe that’s a question for gotquestions.org?

  19. I too was a pastor’s kid for many growing up years. In the move to a new church, I met my now husband of 64 years. With him, I served in local church, associational and state church work. God has blessed our marriage and given us the joy of serving together. Today, in retirement we have NOT retired from living for the Lord, but find many ways to serve in prayer and encouragement AND are still thanking Him for the years together!

  20. 3 PKs from the Philippines just shared this in a group discussion and we ALL relate in one way or another. I think all PKs experience the things you said. Thanks, Andrea, for making this discussion possible. 🙂

  21. At the church my wife and I planted in Austin, we would say the Creed every week together. Though the Creed is traditionally “I believe…” we always said it as “We believe…” My explanation for this was simple; we say “we believe” for the weeks when “I believe” doesn’t ring true. There’s a comfort in knowing that even on those weeks when “I” don’t believe, “we” do. Thanks for that reminder.

  22. Thank you for sharing this. I too hit a patch like you describe in your writing. I was looked to as the strong one due to life circumstances of losing my mom at age of ten, becoming an emancipated minor at 16 (blending families does not always go smoothly) becoming a wife at 18 and then mother at 19. Caught up in an abusive situation caused a major depression beyond measure this is during the time others had to be strong for me in faith, the tables werent just turned they were flipped abruptly. Eventually I healed began volunteering as a victim crisis responder for several police depts, attended some college classes, was offered a job managing our communities domestic abuse shelter by myself working nights for almost 8yrs…survived kidney cancer after two car accidents same lane, road, day of week and time of day led to diagnostic tests that found the tumor in my kidney probably saving my life…more surgery to fuse a neck injury from the accidents…my faith seems on a momentum of growth but I still falter and others step in and are strong for me on occasion…you have tremdous potential and things ahead of you in life…its ok and I believe we are still growing even when others are strong for us on occasion in faith…take good and gentle care

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