My fingers brushed across the book titles, reaching for one, and then sliding it back into the bookcase. Friday evenings called for a good book, or at 'feast one that I hadn't read in a while. Already read that one. . . and that one . . . too long . . . too dull . . . too babyish . . . too what? I pulled the book out to make sure I had seen the title correctly. How to be a Minister's Wife and Love It. What a joke! I couldn't believe Mom had such a book. Loving being a minister's wife .. . how absurd! The whole idea was ludicrous, impossible. I shoved the book back and continued the search, but the titles were no longer catching my eye. Memories of my life as a preacher's kid hovered in my mind's eye like a persistent mosquito until I finally stretched out on the floor and let the images roll by.
December. A cold, beautiful evening. I watched the black window reflect the orange glow of the living room lamp.
"When is he coming home?" I asked.
"He will be here soon. He just had a Bible study and then he's coming right home."
"And then can we go? The parade has already started, and there's going to be a Santa Claus throwing candy just like last year, and.. ."
"It's getting late, Genie."
"But you said we'd go! Daddy said we would go!"
"Dear Jesus, please send Daddy right home so we can go to the parade, Please, please, Jesus."
By the time the car lights beamed into my anxious face, I was exhausted from hoping. I didn't move. It was too late. But still, maybe ...
"...got held up. They're really interested. What? This late? Well, let's go then."
I was in the car, pressing my nose against the window and fogging it with my breath. "Please Jesus, let me get some candy."
"I'm sorry, Genie, look's like it's all over with."
The litter and wrappers and damp streamers taunted me.
"You missed it, missed it, missed it."
School time, and the smell of carpet glue filled my head while my classmates and I ate our sandwiches on the floor.
"What does your daddy do? My daddy works a the mill." "Yeah, and my daddy . . . well my daddy ..."
But I was too busy thinking to fight for my own father's recognition. His occupation was suddenly a mystery to me. I went through the days of the week, thinking about his coming and going.
"My Daddy built this school," I said triumphantly, "and our house."
"Well, my daddy says your daddy didn't know what he was doing when he put those kind of windows in here," Amy announced.
"Yes, he did! He's a builder!" I shouted.
"No, he's not. He's just the preacher."
"Oh, yeah, I know that." But I didn't speak to her the rest of the day. I recoiled at the insult and felt frustrated that I could not throw one back at her. Even if I knew of some juicy bit of something about her father, .[ was not allowed, on the pain of death, to breathe a word of it to anyone. I thought again of just what it was my daddy did for a living. I hadn't really thought of him as a preacher. He did so many other things every day of the week. I just hadn't figured in Sabbath yet in his list of duties.
Sabbath. The day that began with "thunk—swish, thunkswish" about 75 times as dad reeled out the bulletins on his hand-crank mimeograph machine. The day that ended with a key in the lock as he closed up the church after vespers. Then he was daddy again. Well, actually it would be 20 minutes after he locked up while he stood in the parking lot talking to a church member, while I begged mom to let me blow the car horn.
Yes, daddy was the preacher, and that meant I was a good girl and mom was a saint from heaven, I hated being a good girl. But had only an inkling of how my mother felt, I only heard the muffled sounds of crying once when I walked by her bedroom door. I only saw her lips tighten and her fingers grip mine a little closer while someone complained or rebuked now and then, and I only noticed her tired eyes when she stayed up late to sew something for one of us to wear. I sat down to many a mouth-watering Sabbath meal with the visitors from church when it seemed we didn't have anything in the refrigerator. I saw a little of the weariness and pain in her life, but when it came to moving to a new district, I had eyes only for my poor little self.
* * *
September. I sat in the back seat, my feet cramped around the cardboard box for the cat.
"I'm not going to stay there. I'll run away. I'll run back to my real home. I'll live with the Clarks; they love me. They wouldn't make me leave the best place in the world, my friends and my school and my tepee, for some awful place where it doesn't even snow." I pulled my shirt close around my neck again. I was wearing a necklace, a forbidden object. It was from David.
"I'll never forget you, ever. I'll keep this always, and when I come back, we'll be together again," I whispered out the window.
Saturday night. It was what I waited for all day. As the hours passed and the sun Went down, my excitement increased. Time to have fun!
Kelly called, "Can you come with us? My mom will pick you up, and you-know-who is going to be there!"
"I'll be ready! Just let me ask my mom."
Great! Kelly's mom was the most dependable, trusted mom in the whole church, so if she is going to take us skating, I knew my parents would let me go. So I thought.
I began my speel to mom but was intercepted as dad approached. All I heard was, "You're the pastor's daughter, and I can't allow you . . . the music they play in those places ... it's not a place for you to go."
The snip and clatter of scissors broke through my thoughts. So much for reading. I had spent all evening reminiscing.
"You need any help with those felts, Mom?" I cased into a dining room chair and studied the odd shapes that fell from her scissors.
"No, I'm almost finished. Thank you for making dinner for tomorrow. It looks good," she said. Then, out of the blue, she looked at me and said, "You know, you'll make a good pastor's wife someday."
What! Had she read my thoughts? No, she must have misread them. My drowsy body bolted upright as I proclaimed, "No way! Not me, I'll never marry a minister! I'm not even going to look at a guy if he's going to be a minister!"
I think I was quivering, but even in my sudden outcry I noticed she seemed a little hurt.
"Has it been that bad?" Dad clapped his hand on my shoulder and startled me again. I began to feel a little remorseful.
"No, you're both great, but I don't want to have to go through what you do all the time. It's not worth it."
We were quiet for a while.
"You really haven't been fair, thinking of all the bad times," a voice inside me whispered. What about all the Pathfinder trips, the extra treats, workers' meetings at camp, getting out of school to go with Mom and Dad on a family day?
What about having Dad at home more than most kids do? Well . . . as a teenager that didn't always seem like a good thing.
The two side- continued to debate, but my final thoughts were about my future. So I had grown up as a preacher's kid, for better or worse; that certainly didn't mean I had to continue the same pattern as an adult! No money to spend, no apples or pears off of the fruit trees we planted because we had to move away; no best friends to confide in, and no fun, lest some dear church member find out and disagree with the activity. The negatives of being part of a pastor's family were many: criticism from church members, long hours for Dad, hurt feelings and discouragements, and monumental expectations from those around us.
Dad's chuckle interrupted me again.
"Well, sometimes I don't feel like its worth it either, Genie. This is not an easy life, but God is good."
God is good, perfect and wise, and has plenty of opportunities to laugh, I am sure. The book title that I scorned now sits on my shelf, in our home, and I have put it to use, not as a drink coaster but as a source of encouragement and information. I don't always love it, but as a minister's wife, I see the hand of God work in a way I never have before, and I feel as though I am a part of something even bigger than I can see or imagine. I have an awesome responsibility, not to the sometimes troublesome, often wonderful church members, but to the God of the universe, who ironically led me to this position in. life.
"You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit," Jesus said (John 15:16, NIV). He said it to the willful, proud disciples, and I know He says it to me, too. The verse grabbed hold of me when I read it. That's me! The one who said I would never marry a minister, and yet did. (Is it you, too?)
"Lord, help me, a reluctant preacher's kid and pastor's wife, to do all that you want. I don't always feel like I have what it takes to bear fruit for you, but make me Your disciple. Help me to love it! Most of all, help me to love You."