Observations from a normal family
[The Observer is pleased to introduce our newest columnist, Father RJ Johnson, the pastor of Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake. His column, "Family Observations," will focus on trying to maintain sanity in a world that pretends perfection is possible. Father RJ has been a priest for 16 years, living in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Virginia before coming to Advent in 2010. He has a son and daughter – which he refers to as a "matched set" – a wife, a dog and a cat.]
In a culture that often turns self-promotion into an art form, people are sometimes surprised when I say I am thankful to have a normal family. In our culture, people are often striving to have an exceptional family. From the perspective of a pastor, a normal family is a great blessing. I have seen other pastors who have tried to make sure their children are exceptional and the pressure often warps them. I have seen people in other professions work very hard to produce exceptional children, and the results are about the same.
To say that I have a normal family does not mean that my vocation to parish ministry is not reflected in the lives of my children. In future installments, you will get to know a little more about how this vocation shapes my children. For example, when my daughter was invited to stay at her friend’s grandparents’ home, her friend told her that her grandparents were very religious, and they would have to attend a church service on Sunday. My daughter responded, “Only one?”
As part of an assignment at school, my son had to answer the question, "Who is in charge?" While other children answered that their parents, or teacher, or principal, or the president of the United States is in charge, my son answered, "God is in charge!"
Yes, he even included an exclamation mark to drive the point home. Children will often use an exclamation mark to let you know they are absolutely certain their answer is the correct one. Before you start looking to my son for spiritual direction, however, I should tell you that one day I heard him singing the following to himself: "Glory, glory, how ya doin', he reigns" (the correct lyrics to the song are "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns"). His answer to the question “Who is in charge?” had more to do with the fact that he is shaped in some ways by my vocation than with any indication that he is a spiritual prodigy.
I was raised by an Army officer, and, as a child, could have told you much about the relative troop strength of various world powers, but Caspar Weinberger never called to ask for my input. I suppose the fact that I remember Weinberger was the Secretary of Defense during those years of my life is a little strange. I could not tell you who the Secretary of Defense was when I was in college.
Our children will undoubtedly be shaped in some ways by our vocations and our interests. As long as our vocations and interests only shape them, and do not warp them, it is normal, and normal is good.
RJ Johnson, pastor of Advent Westlake
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.