Growing up the child of a minister is a good life. People make jokes about preacher’s kids, with some justification, certainly. But, in reality, it’s a great life. You get the run of the church, along with the knowledge of where to find a vanilla wafer when you need one and what the baptistery looks like when it’s empty. You get pampered by the older people, raised by the village, and just enough limelight to give you a healthy self-esteem.

What you also get, as a PK, is a look behind the wizard’s curtain, so to speak. Everyone else may be impressed by the Great and Powerful Oz when he stands behind his pulpit every Sunday, but you—you have seen the guy rushing from the bathroom in nothing but a towel. You have seen him lose his cool when he mistook his thumb for a nail, and you know where he hides his cigarettes. He is the guy you call to take care of the ghosts clamoring to get out of your closet at night, and he is the guy who made you spend your entire Saturday raking the leaves in the back yard (when you know, theologically speaking, that God would not have made leaves fall if God did not intend for them to stay there). If the ministers in your home are doing their job right (which mine did), the face of God looks like cookies and homework and being grounded and having a brand new bike all at once, which is exactly why it is difficult to face becoming a minister if you have grown up the child of one.

When I left college, I got a job in Charlotte teaching high school. I moved to Charlotte with all the optimism and hope of a young person beginning a new profession—thinking that the students would love me, knowing that I would be cool a teacher, believing that I would change their lives, and hoping that I would become for my students what my teachers had been for me. The realities of teaching are harsh, but I managed to hold onto my optimism for many years until the needs of my children superseded my need to teach.

I had no such optimism about becoming a minister. None. First of all, I had absolutely no intention of ever becoming a minister or taking a paycheck of any kind from a church. I ended up doing some summer work for churches, but my experiences there simply reinforced my determination to never hitch my star to the church wagon. I know the life of a minister—I know what 24/7/365 looks like. One summer I did serve as a church as a summer minister, and I had to sit on a Sunday morning and hear a sermon about the importance of maleness to the role of ministry. I did not remain a member of that church. At the other church, my duties continued well past the summer (when, coincidentally, the church stopped paying me for my time) and that role became a burden on top of my duties as a teacher.

So when people began to say to me, “You should be our children’s minister,” I laughed. Derisively. Repeatedly. Whole-heartedly. And then a few more started saying it. “You’re so good with the children—why don’t you become our children’s minister?” Ha ha ha! No. But I found myself spending my time thinking of how to tell Bible stories to children. I found myself keeping a sermon idea notebook. I found myself taking on tasks that involved ministering to children. Craziness! What could it all mean?

Finally, in what I call “The Miracle of the Monty,” the camel’s back snapped in two. My husband, Monty, is not the kind for snap decisions. Just purchasing a new battery for a car is the kind of act that requires weeks of thinking, researching, and pondering. Monty asks, “Could I recharge the old one again? Could I borrow one from the other car and just move it back and forth when I needed to drive? Could I only go places where I can roll downhill?” You see the pattern. So one day I asked him, prepared for weeks of questions and negotiations, “What would you think if I applied for the job of children’s minister at the church?” I braced myself. He said, “If you think that’s what God wants you to do, then you should do it.” And that was it. No questions, no worries, no “what will we do with the children?” or “how many meetings is this going to entail?” Just do what God wants. And that small miracle put me over the edge. Knowing what I knew about the ministry and churches, knowing how many calls, how many conversations, how many meetings were in store for me (and for my family) I stepped across the threshold of the church as one of her ministers. I found myself relaxing into a role that I knew to its very core—and the further I have allowed myself to go into this life, the more I have felt at home.

It has occurred to me in these last eight-and-a-half years during which I have assumed the role of minister that God’s sense of humor is a lot like my brother’s, a lot like my father’s—there is a twinkle of mischief in the workings of the Lord. And every time I put on my ridiculous wizard-like robes to step out onto the stage, every time I get a question from a child such as “If God is here, why can’t I see him?”  I see the glint in God’s eye and hear the rumble of his laughter—and I laugh at myself and enjoy the thought that I can reward myself with a vanilla wafer after the service.

Martha Dixon Kearse is minister to children and families at St. John’s Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.