My mother was the oldest daughter of a pastor. Recently, I visited a cousin. He showed me family photos I’d never seen. One picture showed my mother and her siblings. Mom must have been about 14. She’s at least 8 inches taller than her next brother, 17 months younger. I felt a burst of compassion for them both. As the pastor’s kids, they were in the public eye. How many people made comments to one or both of them about this disparity? 

I know my mother was sensitive about her looks. She was overweight when she was young. She didn’t date as a young woman. She didn’t marry my dad until she was in her 30s. She was socially uncomfortable outside church settings. Mom’s two younger sisters were more fashionable and sophisticated than she was. One year, Mom told me she wasn’t going to her sister’s birthday party. It was a milestone birthday with a big guest list. “I don’t know what I’d wear,” she said. “I’ll go shopping with you, Mom,” I said. But she wouldn’t go.

Like Mom, I can get anxious about how I look, and about parties. I inherited some vulnerabilities from her. But I also inherited some strengths. Rabbi Edwin Friedman used to ask, “What gifts did your parents give you?” Here are some qualities that I learned from my mother that helped me as a pastor. They help me now as I minister to pastors.

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Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash