Not many people know that my mom is a retired pastor. She went to seminary when she was younger, and decided to pursue her ministerial dreams just around the time I was entering kindergarten. I remember her ordination.
My life changed forever when she became ordained. Going to church had always been a big deal, but now church became the center of our social lives.
Even when we went on vacation, we didn’t get a break from church. Mom would wake us up early in the morning on Sunday while we were in Michigan or wherever we happened to be on vacation to “go to some church she found in the yellow pages.”
I’m thankful that I enjoyed most of the church related events that we attended. I liked singing. I liked the crafts we did in Sunday School. However, my mind always seemed to wander when anyone was teaching or preaching about the Bible.
I always knew what was Biblically right and wrong, though. And I was often trying to push the envelope just a little bit, for the sake of getting attention. I would do things like wait until there were twelve people sitting around my grandparents’ dinner table to loudly announce that, “My brother stayed up late to watch naked women on television!” (NOT true, by the way… Or at least, not to my knowledge) Then my cousins would laugh loudly and my brother would scowl and look at me like I was crazy.
Last winter when I was at home in Kokomo, I saw an old acquaintance from high school. He was an athlete and didn’t know me well in high school; I was the antithesis of a popular athlete. In fact, if you were to pick up a thesaurus right now and look under the antonyms’ section for “athlete,” you would find my photograph. I was a quiet, klutzy nerd.
“Man, you’re friendlier than I thought. So were you like a ‘closet extravert back in the day?” he asked me.
I had to think about that. My friends and family knew I was talkative. But both in church and in school, I was fairly quiet. I wanted to do the right thing. I was afraid to be myself. I wanted to be perfect.
I am thankful to have the experiences I had growing up in the church, because it helped to prepare me and center me for the chapters ahead. The one thing I wish I had known is that it’s okay to be inappropriate at times. It’s okay to laugh at poop jokes and be goofy and if a bad word slips out every once in awhile, it’s okay. I don’t think my inability to recognize this was a reflection on my parents at all, but rather a result of just being in a lot of situations–both at church and school, where I felt the expectation was to be “appropriate” and serious at all times.
I put that pressure on myself. So if my present self could give my younger self advice, it would be, “It’s okay to push the envelope. Keep pushing. Don’t censor every stinking thing you want to say. It’s only when you are yourself, that the creativity can flow. So just be yourself, because that’s who were meant to be.”
What advice would you give your younger self?