Recently I was talking with a Missionary Kid (MK) who is now grown and serving as a missionary herself. As we talked about the blessings and challenges of being an MK, she recommended the book, I Have to Be Perfect (and Other Parsonage Heresies) by Timothy L. Sanford. Originally written in 1998, it still holds a lot of truths for Preachers’ Kids and Missionary Kids today. Sanford has done extensive research on children who grow up in the parsonage or on the mission field, and his findings are invaluable. I will dedicate the next two entries to a few topics that especially grabbed me. Remember, I am a PK, and my two children are MKs. This is particularly salient to my life and ministry.
The Power of And
By Timothy L. Sanford
One of the hardest words for many Preacher’s or Missionary’s Kids (PKs or MKs) to say is the small, simple word…
How many times would it have been helpful, even accurate, for you to say, “and”?
- There were good times…and…there were hard times.
- Dad was a good dad…and…he made some mistakes, too.
- I’m proud of our mission agency…and…they have made some bad choices along the way.
And…a powerful and often honest word. Wasn’t there the:
- Good with the bad?
- Fun mixed with the sad?
- Things done right as well as things done wrong?
- The godly as well as the selfish?
Several years ago I was speaking at a church-sponsored workshop…At one of the breaks, I was approached by a woman in her thirties. I don’t remember her name, so I will refer to her as Janie. Her ears had perked up when I shared some of my MK experiences in South America. A second-generation MK from somewhere in the far East who is now married to a pastor, Janie seemed ready to burst. She was emotionally starving for a chance to say the simple word “and” to someone without being labeled or rebuked. She did not hate the mission agency, or her parents or the fact that she was an MK. She was very loyal to all of those things. But she merely wanted the freedom to say that there were painful times, too, that the mission was not always perfect in its decision-making. But she couldn’t. The mission would not tolerate such a thing, unofficially, of course. As we talked, Janie shared experience after experience, glad to have a safe place to tell the truth. She didn’t need therapy. She needed the freedom to verbalize “and.”
And requires you to be honest, at least with yourself. Many of the PKs I’ve talked with have been trained to “bear with the failings of the weak” and to “think (only) about such things” that “are lovely…admirable” or “praiseworthy.” These statements may sound spiritual, but they’re incomplete in and of themselves. I’m sure the Pharisees thought they sounded spiritual and righteous too as they flaunted one part of the law and neglected other parts. If you want to believe these half-truths, be my guest. I’m sure God will think it perfectly saintly that you overlook the two drops of arsenic in the champagne in order to focus on the nice bubbles…
…And is an all-important word that can drastically change the tenor of a sentence….And allows you to break the code of silence to finally tell the secrets that really need to be told…Just because not everything was good does not mean everything, therefore, was bad. Addressing the difficult things, the painful things, the wrong things or the disappointing things you may have experienced does not nullify the positive, the fun, the enjoyable and the nurturing experiences.
Whether your PK or MK experience was 95 percent healthy and 5 percent hassle, or if it was 80 percent hell and 20 percent heavenly, be willing to take a hard, honest look at yourself and your thinking. The and is true; there was both in all our families and experiences.