“He can never do nothin’ fun, ‘cause he’s a preacher’s kid!” He continued, eliciting nods of agreement from the group.
“I can too, I can do anything I want!” I shot back, lying like a rug.
I had to respond, even if it was a lie. It’s the Law of the Playground. The Elementary School Boys Code. And while it was a lie—I couldn’t do anything I wanted to do—I could have fun. I had fun all the time. Just not doing whatever bad thing the bigger, bad kid wanted me to do. Truth was, I didn’t even want to. But at that moment, in that pressure cooker environment facing the gang mentality of some of the boys from Eugene Cole R-V elementary school, I really hated being a preacher’s kid—a PK.
I have been a PK for all but the first three years of my life. (More on those first three years in a moment.) During that time, I have heard it all—good and bad. I have heard every preacher’s kid joke and told a few of my own; I’m pretty sure that I’ve been spanked twice as hard and twice as often as other boys simply because I was a preacher’s kid. I’ve been held up as the “Why Can’t You Be Like Him” ideal to other kids because I was a preacher’s kid. To be fair, I’ve also been held up as the “Whatever You Do, Don’t Be Like Him” model because I was a preacher’s kid. I’ve had many moments when I was so very proud to be a preacher’s kid. But those playground experiences can be especially tough on a 10-year old boy, and during those exchanges, it was the last thing I wanted to be.
“Then why doncha do it!?” The bigger kid taunted, elbowing the boys next to him, relying on the ages-proven concept of peer pressure.
And that’s when I saw my chance. I pulled the hammer back and fired my best come-back at him, confident of a kill shot. “’Cause you’re not my boss!”
A brief, rapid-fire exchange followed, wrapping up the entire affair in a matter of seconds.
“’Cause you’re chicken, ‘cause you’re a preacher’s kid!”
“Nuh-uhh, ‘cause you can’t make me!”
“Can’t make a monkey twice!”
“That’s so funny I forgot to laugh!”
“I don’t shut up I grow up and when I look at you I throw up!”
The recess bell rang. Battle over. Score one for the PK.
Being a preacher’s kid carried a sack full of responsibilities that I never asked for. You have to be polite. You have to be nice. You can’t cuss. You have to keep your clothes looking nice. You have to set a good example for the other kids. You have to go to church every time the doors open. You can’t cheat. You can’t---well now that I think about it, Mr. Eloquence from the playground was right. You can’t have no fun.
On the other hand, there is a priceless advantage to growing up in a spiritual environment and in church, being raised by loving Christian parents. It is grounding. It is a compass that stays with you through all the storms of your life and always points true, always to what is right.
And there is an inherent and intangible coolness in the fact that your Pastor is also your father. His stories seem funnier; the truths he speaks from the Bible seem truer; his altar calls—the invitation, even more earnest. And no preacher I’ve ever heard could take an old "Knight’s Illustration" and make it more personal and relevant than my dad. In short, he made being a PK more bearable—even for a boy constantly subjected to the Law of the Playground and the Elementary School Boys Code.
Besides that, the alternative to not being a preacher’s kid in my family was unthinkable. And that brings us back to that first three years of my life. See, my father was an alcoholic. I was too young to remember, but my older sisters remember all too well. So does my mother.
My father gave his heart and his life to Jesus and asked God to save him when I was three years old. Within days, he had surrendered his life completely and answered God’s call to the ministry. I have heard the stories from my sisters and my mother, about his life before that life-changing moment and since. So let me think, I could’ve been “Red Wilson’s boy—you know Red, that ol’ drunk.” Or I could be “R.V. Wilson’s boy—you know Brother Wilson, that preacher who tells such good stories over there at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church!” Being a preacher’s kid doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all.
I’d love to be able to tell that to the bigger kid from the playground today. I think it might go something like this:
“Yeah, you’re that preacher’s kid who never could have no fun.”
“You were wrong. Fact is I’ve never had so much fun, being Brother R.V. Wilson’s kid—growing up as a PK…And I wish I would’ve told you that back then. But we were just kids.”
“You were another one.”
“I don’t shut up, I---“