It’s PK day at Apples of Gold/Barnabas House of Oklahoma. Our first PK guest post comes from Kassie Rutherfold – full-time nanny (and writer, and student), part-time choreographer,
occasional dancer, and pastor’s kid from central Texas.
When It Hurts
“What do you mean he isn’t the pastor anymore?”
The rosary hanging from my rearview mirror swayed as I drove back to my dorm. I had just celebrated Easter at my godmother’s house in Tulsa, OK — my first Easter not spent visiting my family. I glanced at the face of Jesus staring back at me, and whispered a prayer. This phone call from my mother would mark the second ending of an era in a weekend: I was baptized and received into the Catholic church the night before, and now I was no longer a pastor’s kid. As a child I wondered what this moment would feel like. I didn’t resent being a PK. I did sometimes resent the pressure of being the praise and worship leader from the ages of 12-18, amidst puberty, high school, and college.
“Not for good,” mom amended. “He’s going on furlough. Pastor Cain* is taking over services for a while, but dad will still be in charge of big decisions. We need a break. He’ll be back by the end of the year.”
That much I couldn’t argue with. None of my family had taken a real vacation in over ten years.
My family poured their lifeblood into the church, a congregation in central Texas that originally met in the tiny office of my dad’s used car lot. As the church grew, I began leading worship at 12. My sister (the superior singer among us) helped out with vocals. My brother taught himself how to play the drums by trial, error, and attempting to follow my frantic, micro-managing hand signals from my perch at the keyboard.
The church became an extension of our family. The central element of our life. One woman on the music team called me her granddaughter. We counted the elder and his wife as Aunt and Uncle. Church staff shared holidays with us. They were there for birthdays, adoptions, and to listen when the tension between being a worship director and a teenager growing up in a pastor’s family hit the boiling point. While I planned a wedding during an engagement that ultimately collapsed and crumbled, several members of the staff were included with my family, without an ounce of hesitation.
There were challenges that we conquered, and challenges that threatened to crush us. We had stuck together, but by the time Easter 2011 rolled around, we were wearied and war-battered. The impact of exhaustion and the financial strain of church leadership could be felt 350 miles away, where I was attending college at Oral Roberts University. I knew it was even more stressful in the heart of the fire at home, and was grateful that my family had a chance to recover, to recharge, and to hit the ground running in 2012 with a fresh mission. We were happy, and we were hopeful.
We were very, very wrong.
My family, particularly my parents and teenaged siblings, faced betrayal over the next several months from the very people that we counted on as family. I could only listen as my brother and sister cried over the phone, their sweet spirits heartbroken over the lies that slowly poisoned their relationships with friends in the church.
I fought soul-drying bitterness, not for me, because I had the benefit of distance on my side. For my parents, who would give up anything for anybody, and worked themselves into the ground for a decade to keep a roof over our family’s head while providing spiritually, physically, and sometimes financially for the church body.
For my sweet siblings who were persecuted and demeaned by the very adults that were supposed to lead and guide them.
For the first time, I truly resented being a PK. I resented the thousands of hours poured into a church that now had the potential to destroy us. I resented the people who turned so quickly on the pastor that had given them a chance when the rest of the world considered them a societal casualty. I resented the fact that this time that was supposed to be a gift of preciously needed rest and renewal for my parents was turning into a nightmare we couldn’t shake off. I resented being unable to physically do anything to help them.
I’d like to say that a blinding epiphany happened. But it didn’t. What happened was a slow, steady poking and prodding. Angry, dirty, bitter pieces of my soul stripped away bit by bit with every prayer I prayed, every angry fit, every time I cried kneeling in my parish or tucked into one end of my best friend’s couch.
Healing happened, but it didn’t happen with the flashing lights of a Benny Hinn crusade. It happened with my family coming together, standing up and saying “We refuse to let our call die. We refuse to give up”. It happened when I found my identity in what God was calling me to do in the season of my life I’m living now, not clinging to what he called me to do in the past.
Healing happened when I stopped trying to make it happen.
I still fight to forgive everyone involved in what happened. But the words “Please, Jesus, help me forgive” are slowly being replaced with “I forgive you” whispered in the quiet of my soul.
As we approach the two year mark, my parents are back in ministry, and I can once more say I’m a PK without cringing. Because in all of the pruning and emotional calisthenics, I abandoned my dependence on the title as some kind of sacred spiritual credential. The important thing is running the race, not the number on your back.