I Met Jesus After 17 Years in the Church
Is it true that PKs all wild out when they leave the house? That was the line my friend said to me when she found out I was a PK.
"I had no idea you are a PK! what was it like growing up!"
For those new to this term: PK = Preacher’s Kid. In this context, my experience is different because not only am I a PK , but I am a Nigerian PK. It will make sense as you read.
Seeing reactions when close friends discover about my upbringing never gets old; retelling some of the stories sometimes does though. For those who are not PKs I can tell you, its one of those experiences you have to live in to fully understand. I can liken it to a Military Kid’s life. Their experience is unique but often similar to other Military Kids, but unless you’ve lived it, stories can only tell so much. I’ll do my best.
As long as I can remember, growing up, life was church. Church was life. Throughout my childhood living in Nigeria, Canada, and the US, visiting the church 4 days a week or more was never strange. I remember sporadic family devotionals at 9 pm, 7 am, 3 pm; whenever the mood was right. I had curfew times that were as early as when peers of mine were getting ready to head out of their respective houses. The frustration of wishing my parents were not together so they wouldn’t be in one accord when they say "No" to my request sounds wild now, but at the time, I would have done anything to lessen the overprotective nature of my upbringing. Perfect example, High school PROM. lol. Thats a story for another day. It wasn't all frustration though, several benefits came as a result of my position as the first daughter of my parents.
I remember specifically, my 15th birthday being at a church convention filled with thousands of strangers I didn’t know, and being handed wads of money from my Dad’s pastor friends who had just met me for the first time. I guess giving them the proper Yoruba child greeting payed off.
Growing up visiting my friend’s churches became a highlight to my routine. It almost felt like a camaraderie of understanding when PKs would hang out because, like a secret society, we understood the pressures of perfection.
At 11 years old my family visited a pastor friend’s church and I sashayed my way to the children’s department. No later than 15 mins into my entrance was I asked to tell the group last weeks memory verse. Keep in mind, I was NOT there “last week”. The sunday school teacher proceeded to say, “I know you weren’t here but you should know it. It’s a popular bible verse and isn’t your dad a pastor”. At 11 years old I was stunned and tried to laugh it off and change the subject to get her attention off me.
As the years progressed, and I became a teenager, I grew fed up with the comparisons; comparisons between my peers, statements about the fact that I am behaving as one without culture. I would hear about someone who “greets the elders” and “dresses modestly in a right way”,but in the back of my mind I wanted to shout out all the rebellious secret things that person has done that I knew of. They wouldn’t be so perfect once everyone learned the truth. But, alas, to do so was to betray my fellow PK, so silence was loyalty. That was all I knew. All the while I continued the act of "obedient" PK without truly having a relationship with God.
It became routine living in the shadow of the truth that my parents are ministers; becoming very good at hiding my true rebellious nature so the church could see me as a respectful Pastor’s child. At 17 years old, I hit rock bottom. I experienced a loss of self that had me questioning where my life was going and I didn't have joy. Even with all my bible knowledge, I had to accept that I was not living a life worthy of representing the gospel, and finally chose to be follow Jesus authentically.
Before this, I could easily tell you the books of the bible in order- if I sing the song they taught me in sunday school. I was a leader in the church, all while living in a cycle of unhappiness and guilt. Maybe I wasn’t serious enough to be aware that the Gospel message of Jesus was being preached at a young age, maybe it was not palpable to my understanding at that time, maybe I was just stubborn; I don’t know. All I know is I did not surrender my life to Jesus until my freshman year when I went away to college. As the quote says, "God has no grandchildren”. I knew I wasn’t saved through my parents, but in my heart, I assumed I’ll come to Jesus once I’ve “had my own fun first”. Thank God for snatching me up, stubbornness and all, and making me his.
I turned 22 last week and was reflecting on things I am grateful for. Reminiscing back through my teenage years of frustration,I never thought I’d say this, but I am grateful for the upbringing I had.
I give praise to God for the privilege to grow up in a household of two parents that believed and honored God. I say it’s a privilege because I have come to understand that in the depths of my depression in 2011 and in the midst of heartbreak and disappointments over the years, I had some Biblical truths I could recall and hold on to from my childhood. Not everybody has that. When I had recurring nightmares in my teenage years, I could hold on to the verse my father helped me memorize at 7 years old. 2 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."
Some people wish to have a family that pours into them and prays for them the way mine did for me. It is a shame it took these many years to see that the prayers they prayed over me came from a deep place of love. The strictness they displayed was out of protection. They weren’t asking for perfection, but they wanted to provide direction. I see PKs who are much younger than me and I understand their perspective, but I can also see more clearly the perspective of my parents. I hope as you’re reading this, you see that everything you’re dealt serves a purpose. You didn’t choose the family you grew into, neither did the PK, but in everything God gets his glory. There’s joy in realizing the journey you are in has a purpose.
I welcome any and all conversations about life as a PK. The stories are endless.
x: Anjola Coker