I have lived in a parsonage most of my life, My daddy being a pastor and now my husband being one, has sealed my destiny in this. You may be saying “What is a Parsonage?, That is a strange word.” Well, Webster defines it as “the house provided by a church for its’ pastor” Living in a parsonage is a peculiar position to be in, you aren’t renting but you don’t own either. The home isn’t yours, but it is yours to live in for the season you pastor there.
It typically isn’t painted or decorated to your preferences, you simply have to take what you get. (and you don’t throw a fit) Some parsonages have been poorly maintained and look like they haven’t seen any attention to detail or style since the 60’s, while others are immaculately cared for. As new pastors to a community, you never know if the church is going to require the pastor and his family to get permission before you do anything to the home, like paint or hang things on the wall or will they be comfortable just to let you decorate and maintain it yourself. On the other hand, I am sure some congregations feel the same way and are wondering “How much does the pastor expect of us?”
I remember as a little girl, one week while our family was gone on a vacation, the church people, trying to be helpful, came inside the parsonage without my parents knowledge and painted the whole interior. To my mother’s horror she was not expecting people in her home without notice so it was in no way ready for any guests, after all when a family leaves for a vacation, they aren’t typically deep cleaning before they go. So, needless to say, it wasnt ready for furniture to be move out to be painted behind. But the worst part was, they painted every room in the house without asking my mother what color she would like. The color turned out to be a green that my mother despised, well before those sweet dear members decided to help her out, and perhaps that is why we had nothing in the house that remotely matched it.
Some churches think it is important to keep their pastors humble, so they assure you live in a home much less than any of the parishioners would choose to live in, while others honor their pastors and assure they have a home at least as equal or much better than any of their parishioners. (parishioners is another churchy word for people that go to the church) Living in a parsonage can be a tricky thing. It can be uncomfortable for a pastor to have to make the board aware of broken appliances, especially when he knows that the churches finances might be tight and can’t really afford to replace it. But, at the same time, a home needs a stove or refrigerator and usually if the churches budget is tight, so is the pastor’s, so it’s not like he or she can afford to replace it.
So you can see how living in a parsonage can feel like you are really living at the mercy of a group of people who hold your personal space and job in their hands. It can be very awkward. while at the same time, you are very grateful for their generosity. But the bottom line is, it is not your home. and for me, it has never felt like my home. No matter where I have lived, and I have lived in at least 11 parsonages, that I can think of just off the top of my head. Because for me , there is always that shadow, of “What will the board think if I do this?”, “What will the neighbors think of our church if the kids leave their bikes in the yard or the scrubs are trimmed imperfectly?” I don’t know if the congregations feels this way but, I am always wondering when they come into the house, “Are they judging how well I have kept it up for them?” It’s kind of like seeing your hairdresser out on the street when you are having a bad hair day.
But the maintenance and style isn’t the only thing that is not our own in a parsonage. Your privacy, many times, is given up because at anytime, by your sheer profession you can be called upon or dropped in on.
I remember one specific evening, when I was a little girl, my family was having some special time when an unexpected knock came at the door. It was a young teenage girl and her boyfriend that attended our church. She was crying and I was immediately asked to go to my room. Well, me being the inquisitive child I have always been, went down the hall toward my bedroom but just happened to stop at the rocking chair at the end and sat hiding behind it as I listened to these young people tell my parents she was pregnant and they didn’t know what to do.
I have learned a lot behind these parsonage walls, and this one defining moment that taught me that I never wanted to be put in that predicament as a teenager, and is probably what kept me a virgin till my wedding day.
But all of my family doesn’t carry the baggage I do of living behind the parsonage walls, they don’t understand that this is not our own home and we can’t be just leaving our underwear and socks around everywhere, because at some point and time, because of our profession, someone might walk into our home unexpectedly with a issue or need, or maybe just want to paint the inside of our house.
All this got me thinking, the parsonage is not much different than our life in Christ, once we give our life to God. It is not our own either, it is His and we shouldn’t be just leaving the junk of this world laying around in it. We should always be aware that this world isn’t our home we are just passing through. The truth is we are living for another just like you do in a parsonage, and that other is Christ. You don’t always get what you want because our flesh often wants things that are not good for us.
If we are truly following after God. We have to remember that the chains of sin have been broken over us when we accept Christ. But, because of God’s amazing grace, He has given us a choice of our will. So we must choose to pick up the junk in our lives, and avoid the temptations that so easily trips us up.
When this world seems to be crashing down around us, we can remember that this world is not our home, we are just passing through, this is only for a season and God has a home waiting for us that supersedes anything we could hope for or image.
This life is only temporary and we can’t allow the struggles that come our way to discourage us or distract us from what we should be focused on and that is living our life pleasing to the King of Kings. Troubles will come, things happen in our life we wish didn’t , but we can trust God has a bigger and better plan if we will just follow it.