Heart to Heart by Esther Fenty

I’m a pastor, married, and have learnt I have a daughter from my past life.

Christmas is one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year for me in my role as a church pastor, but it’s good stress as it gives me the opportunity

to share the Gospel. However, I feel under great pressure and I don’t know what to do. I’m in turmoil. Prior to my conversion 20 years ago, aged 24, I slept around. I’ve just had a letter from a woman I had a brief affair with prior to my conversion, stating I’ve got a daughter aged 19 who would like to meet me. This letter has turned me upside down, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve not spoken to my wife or leadership team about it, partly – if I’m honest – due to fear of their response. I don’t want to and can’t afford to lose my position. I’ve never had to deal with a situation like this, and would welcome your advice.
Name and address withheld

Esther Fenty says

I can’t begin to imagine the turmoil that this news brings, especially at a time like Christmas! Unexpected news like this can cause our emotions to overwhelm us, so that very often we can’t see the wood for the trees. This may be why you appear to be more focused on your position as a church pastor.

The Bible is clear that, as long as you have confessed your sins to Jesus, you have been forgiven. He does not hold this against you, and neither should you or others. However, though the past is forgiven, there is still the need to deal with any consequences of previous behaviour, ie. you are forgiven for sleeping around before you were converted, but if you have a child because of this, you will have to work on that relationship.

Your wife and the leadership team should be willing to forgive you, as this happened before your conversion. Difficulties may occur if you pretended that your previous life was squeaky clean, or you have been unsympathetic to those in similar situations. However, you should not lose your position because of this. Your wife will need time to consider the family dynamics but, if she loves you, she will stick with you.

You may consider a paternity test. The mother may not be happy, but will possibly understand that this news has come as a shock. In that way, you can determine if the child is definitely yours. That may not be a good start to the relationship, but it will put your mind at ease. Whether she is your daughter or not, you will still need to be honest with your wife.

There may be a number of reasons why the mother might have chosen not to tell you about your daughter. However, it is important to note that it is the daughter who wants to meet you. Every child wants to be able to fit the pieces of puzzles of their history together, even if they do not want to pursue the relationship.

If she is yours, you will have to decide when and where to meet her. As you pray, the Holy Spirit will guide you. With the support of your wife and church family, it is possible that it will be good news at Christmas, as a child has found a daddy she did not know, and you begin to build a relationship with a new daughter.

Christmas is filling me with dread because I’m single.

I am dreading Christmas. I’m a single professional Christian woman, with a very demanding job that keeps me busy for most of the year. However, at Christmas, my office closes down for two weeks, which means I spend time with my family. I don’t mind; I love my family, but I can feel my depression coming on already. I’ll be seeing my relations with their families – everyone seems to converge at my parent’s home – and it will just bring home the fact that, despite my material and professional success, I often feel desperately lonely and long to have a family of my own. I do pretend to my family that everything is fine, and just want some tips to see through this Christmas.
Janet, Leicester

Esther Fenty says

The grass always looks greener on the other side. Perhaps your family is silently envying your professionalism and success, and would want to change places with you. Sometimes, a bit of openness with others can help us to see situations from different perspectives, and recognise our own value. Is yours a family that could support you in prayer if you were honest with them?

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge that career success does not always fulfil the void that is missing from having special relationships in our lives. However, I can’t help wondering whether you are so immersed in the job that it is impossible to find time and space to develop those special relationships. You focus on Christmas, as you are forced to stop working then, but perhaps you could think of how and where you can meet more people or get involved in projects, etc., as a matter of course.

For this year, however, in addition to spending time with your family, you could meet up with friends; volunteer to participate in some community projects, such as working at homeless or cold weather shelters, serving Christmas lunches, etc. You will have a very different Christmas, and who knows who you might meet?

Esther Fenty provides godly and practical advice on a wide range of issues. To contact Ether email editorial@keepthefaith.co.uk

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