I am a pastor’s daughter. And not in the stereotypical way, not the rebellious pastor’s kid who felt neglected and overtly policed by God and their parents. I was generally good, I read the Bible every night before I fell asleep, since I was in 5th grade. The genealogy texts in the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) were the more unbearable ones to get through.
I grew up with church friends being my best friends, mostly because we spent 80% of our week/month/year at church events. I did not know much outside of what my church upbringing taught me, and I never really asked many questions.
But then I started growing up and maturing into a young woman, I started to realize that I was treated differently. It was like everyone put on a pair of gloves to handle me, my virginity became a topic of casual conversation – though they referred to it all as my modesty. And I also remember being taught how to hide the fact that I was menstruating. I was expected to clean up, and help my mom cook. I was suddenly placed with all these expectations, and it had everything to do with becoming a “good,” “submissive,” “docile,” and “accommodating” wife.
Growing up in a Church of Christ denominational church, which eventually became nondenominational but kept a lot of the same schools of thought, meant that as a girl my body wasn’t mine. It was the responsibility of my father, to take care of it, and me, and it was his responsibility to allow someone else (preferably a man of God) to come and then take that responsibility onto his hands.
Growing up a pastor’s daughter meant that you were the example to the congregants of my dad’s church, because my dad preached this type of parenting and I was expected to become all those things because why wouldn’t I. So of course, I did not date lest I tempt the flesh. I was not allowed to have boys who were friends, because “eso no existe” – and when I was old enough to actually have boyfriends I was told that was forbidden. So at age 23, I found a boy which I pretended had found me. I eventually proposed to said boy (but told him to not tell anyone) and told him to go to my dad and ask for permission. Then once said permission was granted, I married the boy and we were supposed to run off as the living-breathing example of my dad’s testimony.
And then a few years down the line, I began to realize the abundant things that I was wrongfully taught about myself that had everything to do with my gender and the religion I had grown up in. I began to realize that I had missed out on discovering who I was, and now I was legally attached to someone who also knew little about his self. I discovered that when you put so much pressure on girls to find “themselves a man,” what we do is that we make them become consumed with that idea that centralizes men therein by stifling their emotional growth that is independent of men.
When I began to focus on my academic career and myself, and I became a problem. And when I was getting divorced, all I kept thinking was: why am I suffering so much, for something that could have altogether been avoided had someone allowed me to just be. Had someone encouraged me to thrive as a brown girl in this world, without any mention of a man along the way, maybe I could have avoided all that hurt and all that pain that divorce left me with.
But as a pastor’s daughter, you’re the example for a lot of people – and no matter how wrong that ideology is – I never stood a chance against an entire congregation.