Last weekend, mega-church pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren's son died. In a letter to his staff, Warren explained that the 27-year-old committed suicide after a lifelong struggle with depression and mental illness.
The tragedy has caused me to self-reflect.
As a father of three boys, the youngest in high school, I know parenting is difficult. The demands of being a pastor make it all the more challenging.
A pastor's family has to share him or her with church members. For many people of faith, their clergy is the first person they call when tragedy strikes. And of course, tragedy is rarely convenient. It can come right before the children's school performance or in the middle of their basketball game. A member calls, pleading with me to come to the bedside of a dying loved one. Fortunately, when my children were younger, this was the exception, not the norm.
But even the few times it did happen, it was tough. My boys masked their disappointment, but being a child of a pastor myself, I understood how much it hurt them.
There is no way to make up for these missed moments. My only hope was to be there when I could. I carved time in my schedule to drop them off and pick them up from school every day (I still do this with my youngest child). Gestures like these showed them that, while my job is important and there are times I have to be away, they are still my priority.
Any parent knows that even when you make sacrifices and rear your children in a good home, things don't always pan out the way you hope. Many pastors' kids rebel; the burden of growing up in a fishbowl proves to be too great. Parents with wayward children may blame themselves, wondering if they could have done more.
I thank God my children have grown to be outstanding young men. But I know it was not because I was an exceptional parent. I made mistakes, and they had to make sacrifices.
I've been appalled by some of the comments on social media aimed at Warren and his wife. Despite any theological differences some Christians may have with Warren, this is not the time to attack. The death of a child is difficult for anyone even a seasoned Christian minister.
Contact Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, at firstname.lastname@example.org.