Tim and Liz Lindow 1

Tim and his wife, Liz. (Source: Tim Lindow)


I grew up as a pastor’s son. There’s so much I could say after that sentence. Trust me. But here’s where I’m going to take it: Believe it or not, I found more acceptance with “outcasts” who truly understand Christianity than I ever did in the churches I grew up in.

Depending on how you view faith, my status as a pastor’s kid could be a good thing or a bad thing. That’s because there’s a misunderstanding about those like me. A lot of people think we’re either secretly hiding something, or we’re perfect children that never make mistakes. But most of us are just trying to get by and be normal.

“Normal” was hard growing up. Without ever asking for it I became this weird local celebrity. People knew who I was, they knew what my parents did, and then they usually attached some kind of ethics to it, holding me to an unattainable standard.

Enter one of the most embarrassing and, frankly, hurtful moments of my life.

Enter one of the most embarrassing and, frankly, hurtful moments of my life.

It was a conference, and my parents were both there. I walked up quietly in the back row to my mom attempting to give her a message from my dad who was talking with someone in the back. The speaker on the stage stopped abruptly and pointed at me.

“You see this pastor’s kid; he thinks it’s all about him and he can interrupt people, he has no respect, but he’ll learn – I had to so I know he will,” he panted into the microphone.

Just like that I was shattered. For days and weeks I wondered what I did wrong. I could go on and on about how many times things like this happened. And with each instance I tried harder and harder to wear a mask — to become someone everyone expected me to be but that I knew I wasn’t. Perfect.

That continued through college. Quickly I became nominated for an “elite leadership” course, where I was supposed to be the next great thing in Christian business and church. I figured if I did what they thought I should do people would just leave me alone.

But it all fell apart one night during my sophomore year.

It started when I got a call from my parents. Their church — the church I grew up in — was shutting down. And for reasons that aren’t worth getting into right now, my grandparents had cut off communication with my mom and dad. On top of that, my brother needed my help telling my parents about a major issue he was having. Oh, and my girlfriend broke up with me. All within the course of three hours.

Before the call, I had started feeling funny. Not sick to my stomach. Not ill. But just different. I wasn’t as “happy” as I should have been. I felt off. That coupled with the three hours from hell led me to seek help. That led to another hurtful episode.

When I approached the Christian school I attended for help I got an answer that still appals me today. I was told that I wasn’t “handling my life right” and that I needed to “get right with God.”

What? I know I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it. Are all my problems some sort of punishment. Why can’t I just get help.

I was crushed. That’s when the depression took over. I became an outcast, the fallen leader. The perfect pastor’s kid had once again let his true colors show. I was told to go deal with it.  

I moved off campus and ended up living with the other “outcasts” who, to this very day, have shown me what real friends are.

There was one night in particular that showed me how special this group was. It was early on in our living arrangement, and I hadn’t gotten to know any of the guys. I stayed in town during Christmas break while everyone else went home. I got sick. Like, really sick. I could barely move. In my stooper I heard some noises in the house but couldn’t even get out of bed to check them out. I dozed off, only to wake up with two guys standing over me.

“You sound pretty sick,” one of them said.

“Yeah,” I managed to say. “I am. Sorry I’m so loud.” They shrugged and walked out. I passed out again, feeling terrible and thinking my roommates thought I was weak or dramatic.

Man, was I wrong.

I woke up in the dark much later, feeling a little better and needing to get water. When I turned over, on my side table was a tray with three different kinds of medicine, orange juice, and water. I took the medicine and went out to the living room, where the guys then asked if I was hungry or needed different meds. I was blown away.

It was vulnerability, and action. Total acceptance. And it looked nothing like what I was told it was supposed to look like.

These were the guys who were known on campus as the ones who had “slept with girls.” The guys who were shunned and told they weren’t good enough for campus. The guys who were rumored to be alcoholics because someone once could have sworn they saw them drinking. These were the guys that were too boisterous. But these were the guys that nursed me back to health and made me feel like I belonged. They loved Christ and showed me what it meant to be Jesus to someone.

We were able to spend nights in our basements being real, gathering the other off-campus men together for “guys nights.” We would actually talk about where we were in life, our difficulties, and expect nothing out of each other, only trying to figure out how we help each other getting through it.

It was vulnerability, and action. Total acceptance. And it looked nothing like what I was told it was supposed to look like.

That’s when and where I learned what Christianity was really about. With the outcasts. And it was awesome.

Tim Lindow is a Pittsburg Steelers fan who recently moved back to Denver, Colorado, after spending a few years working in Uganda with his wife, Liz. They are establishing work and community once again in Denver and are very happy to be in a state known for its brewery culture.