Neglected in Nebraska
March 24, 2014

Dear Theo,

I am 15 years old, and am a PKx2. Although my mom has a part time job and is able to support me in my struggle with mental illnesses and life in general, my dad is so absent from my life. He's always either working or watching football. There is no time for me in his life. I feel like I'm just a burden on him financially, physically, and spiritually; but he's always available to people in his congregation. He says that he loves me more than anything but those words don't translate into actions. What gives? I'm afraid to talk to him about it. Can you help me?

Neglected in Nebrasksa

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Dear Neglected in Nebraska,

There is no doubt being a PK (pastor’s kid) is tough, but to be a PKx2 can certainly be a heavy burden to carry and one can only imagine, lonely. It takes a great deal of courage to give voice to such deep feelings of sadness and missing your dad. I commend you for reaching out in this way. And while this response cannot serve as the big bear hug I want to offer to let you know you are loved, it is my prayer you will find some inspiration to reach out to your dad as eloquently as you have reached out to Theo.

I have been reading some articles from children in the spotlight like the children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or the open letter from President George W. Bush’s twins to President Barack Obama’s daughters. What struck me was the consistent theme of these children feeling as if they had to share their dad with the world. They, too, had moments like yours. I also remember a story in the bible when Jesus’ family came to see Him while He was out in ministry and they felt isolated, too. "Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd." Luke 8:19 It really hurts to want to be near someone with all of your love and might and yet, it seems the crowd has better accessibility.

The responsibility of caring for a congregation may indeed prevent your dad from seeing the impact it is having on your relationship with one another. He may be oblivious to his neglect. And if he is as caring to his congregation as you describe, there is a great chance he may appreciate your taking time to let him know that you need him, miss him and want him to be more involved in your life.

Let him know how he can demonstrate his love and support. Let him know how he can translate his love into action in ways that are meaningful and impactful to you. Be honest and real: "Dad, I love you. Dad, I miss you. Dad, I need you to be more hands on in my life. Dad, I feel as if I am a burden to you. Dad, I need your support."

You also noted having a strong relationship with your mom. Since your mom has been amazingly supportive in your struggle with mental illnesses and other life matters, I wonder if you may feel comfortable reaching out to her to express your feelings and to seek her guidance on how to break through the crowd to reach your dad. Her insight as a fellow pastor may help you gain a better understanding of what your dad is facing in balancing family and ministry. Give your dad an opportunity to become more involved by letting him know what may seem painfully obvious to you, but may be regrettably unconscious in him.

As you consider giving your dad a chance to demonstrate his love in more visible ways, also think about ways you can demonstrate your love and support of him. Again, be honest and direct: "Dad, let’s watch football together. Dad, let me join you on hospital visits one weekend. Dad, tell me more about what made you become a pastor."

There is no doubt in my mind that your dad is one of the luckiest fathers out there to have a son or daughter like you with a heart so big, it bubbles over.  I am praying he will soon come to know it more intimately and respond by likewise opening up his heart to yours. This may not be easy at first and surely, this is going to require taking a leap of faith and trusting that what your dad has already expressed to you is indisputably true: "He loves you more than anything."

Bless you, and may you be a blessing,

Theo

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"Dear Theo" is written anonymously by four UCC ministers of different ages and backgrounds. We welcome questions spanning all kinds of topics: from sexuality and relationships to church culture and conflict to mental health, family drama, ethical and moral dilemmas...and everything in between.

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