Once upon a time there was church somewhere in America. It wasn't better or worse than any other church in America. It was as full of the same kind of hopeful foolish beauty, and tragic inevitable disaster as any another other place where people put money in the offering plate and sing songs.
Now in this church there was a family. A quirky non-conformist family, square pegs, no ... hexagonal pegs, no ... 5 dimensional pegs. The church loves this family and the family loves being part of the church. They don't quite fit it, because of those pesky extra dimensions, but everyone gets along ok.
Then three things happen.
- There is some upheaval and the youth program which used to be run by a full time staff member is now being run by a part time volunteer.
- There is some upheaval, and the quirky family is not working very well. They are having to work hard just to keep loving each other, they kind of lose energy for extra stuff, like looking all shiny and nice on Sunday mornings.
- The son in this family, partially because life is not perfect at home, and partially because he is five dimensional, is now, by his presence in the room, keeping the youth program from running smoothly when he is involved. He isn't knocking down walls or hurting people. He refuses to sit in the circle and play the games and doesn't have the same happy opinion about the world that everyone else does.
One day, Youth Director comes to the Father of the Quirky family and says. "Your son is messing up Sunday School for all the normal children. Something has to be done." On the day of the pronouncement, the Father of the Quirky Family was trying to figure out how to not to run screaming in fear from all the broken-ness in himself and the rest of the Quirky Family. The last thing he needed was a new problem that needed to be monitored and managed.
So the Five Dimensional Son was no longer welcome in Sunday School. He grows up from pre-teen to adult never stepping inside church again. This church just had no way to be a good place for the Quirky Family under stress, it could not offer itself as a safe place, it needed to be safe for the together people, a place that accomplishes goals, more than it needed to be a safe place for the strange people.
I tell you this fairy tale because today there are Facebook photos of a youth group having an "awesome time", and young men who used to be friends with my magical five dimensional son, are now living their very exciting, awesome, together lives without him, and I am sad.
( Adding This One Day Later: I wrote this as a way of responding to the photographs. They were full of happy people and there was an empty space which was not filled with my son. This was my way of acknowledging that empty space. It is starting to get read more widely, so I want to add one thing. The Youth Director from this fairy tale is a dear friend, who was also trying to hold things together that seemed to want to fly apart. It would be a mistake to read this as "what a bad thing that person did". For me the real sadness is, this is the kind of bad thing that we do to each other, all the time. I'm certain that there are many happy photographs of my life which also contain a shadow outline of the wounded people who were not welcome to be in the picture. The trick is to grieve together about that and not tear each other apart. Let's tell all the stories. )