Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Tale of Two Churches

There once was a little white Baptist church, set on a plot of farmland that the pastor liked to call "sacred acre". It was a small congregation, firmly mired in the year 1950, dearly loved by their elderly pastor. One Sunday in June, they observed the relatively obscure church holiday "Children's Sunday". The Pastor sprinkled short object lessons with scripture, prayers from select members of the congregation, and performances by youngsters in the church. The theme was children, growing up in Godly homes, growing to be the future of the church. For each object lesson he called children from the pews up to the platform to "help" him with the lesson. For the most part this consisted of holding an item, and answering leading questions.

In the very last pew of the little church, sat a multicolored family, filling the row tightly. Four of the children were newly adopted daughters, who had never had much of a childhood, never known a Godly home, and had never yet pondered their role in any church. The pastor rushed to the rear during the greeting time, to shake hands all around, and in passing asked if he could call on some of the children during the lesson. The father of the children smiled broadly and said, "Absolutely not!" His voice was cheery but firm. The pastor looked momentarily taken aback, but then chuckled and said, "Well, I'm glad I asked!"

Later the lesson went like this. The pastor called some children forward and handed them different sorts of sea shells. He asked them to identify them by kind. Then he asked the children what the shells were created for, and finally they arrived at the idea that they were specially created as homes...just as our heavenly Father has specially created homes for the children in the church. And why are they shaped this way, and hard on the outside? Because they keep the creature inside safe...just as our parents keep us safe in our homes. The lesson clicked in the minds of the parents in the last row. Of course the pastor had wanted one or two of their children on the platform. They would be "feel-good" poster children for how God had delivered these little ones out of chaos and danger, and into the bosom of a Godly and loving home.

And maybe it was the truth. But there is another truth as well. One or two of those children would have stood uncomfortably at the pastor's side, and pasted on fake smiles. Through those fake smiles they would have tried to give the answer that was expected. If the questioning had become personal, they would have buried their shame and discomfort, and forced out cheery agreeable answers. Then they would have gone to their safe Christian home and self destructed for a day or three. At the conclusion of the segment, the pastor drew attention to the family in the last row, praising the parents for the selfless thing they were doing, "inviting these four girls into their home, and giving them a family." He asked the father to offer a prayer thanking God for the homes that He provides for His children. The mother of the family was amazed at how gracious and sincere his prayer was, as she felt like she might have choked on the attempt.

There once was another church, also small, and much loved by the pastor. In this church the multicolored family, sitting in a crowded pew did not feel strange. No one ever drew attention to the "different-ness" of their family. No one tried to paste a halo over their picture in the church directory. In this church, they were just another family. This was not to say that folks were unaware of the differences, or their struggles. But instead of remarking on it, they prayed about it. They asked their questions in private, or sent notes by mail. The pastor sent around a CD with information about the struggles of families adopting older children, so that a person might educate themselves a bit, and offer genuine help and encouragement. It was like cold water in the desert.


Denise said...

I liked this a lot.

leisa said...

This "story" is must read material. Can I share it with others?

blondie said...

What a wonderful story to share! Very thought provoking - particularly about what we as parents need to do to ensure attachment.

Thank you for writing it.

Carmen Van Kerckhove said...

[Please feel free to delete this comment - I couldn't find an email address for you, so apologies for doing this so publicly.]

Hi there,

I'm co-founder of an anti-racism training company called New Demographic. We write and edit a network of blogs, including Anti-Racist Parent, for parents committed to raising children with an anti-racist outlook.

I absolutely loved this post and I wanted to ask if we might be able to cross-post it on our blog, with a link back to yours? We would add a byline that reads:

"by guest contributor Nobody, originally published at Scraps by Nobody."

You will have a permanent, royalty free, non-transferable traditional copyright to all posts you publish on Anti-Racist Parent.

Please let me know if that would be ok. Thanks so much!

Take care,