My niece came down for a few days this week. It’s monumental because she hasn’t been allowed to visit her grandparents down here for five years. Shortly before my husband and I got married his parents and his brother’s family had a falling out. The five kids and two parents in that household haven’t seen their parents/grandparents for a significant length of time. I wish I could make you understand how big that is to us. We all went on family vacations and spent the holidays together. The grandparents went to the kids concerts even though they were three hours away. We were what I would consider a tightly knit family. In fact, I was nearly as excited by marrying into their close family as I was about marrying my husband. I love them both and I didn’t take a side or listen to all the blame game and theorizing. I just love them all. But anyway, my niece is twenty-one and having a hard time at home. My mom called and suggested that I could maybe help her out a bit. She also told me what she had heard was going on. It brought me right back to why I had been friends with their family all this time.
When I was sixteen, my boyfriend and I were having sex. He started to go through some really hard personal and legal issues that landed him in a foster home with my youth pastor of all people. While there he told my pastor (only God knows why) that we were having sex. Later that night, I was forced to tell my mom. She called one of her friends to talk about it, and that friend happened to be a Sunday school teacher. Next Sunday what do you think the lesson was? She used me by name. I was a real cautionary tale at the most vulnerable and self-loathing part of my life. My now niece was in that class and went home to tell her parents about what had been said, and from then on we had remained friends. They left the church and so did I, and we would meet up to talk and hang out. They were a big blessing to me in that time. And I can’t help thinking that it could have been that way for my niece without a church this time. My mom assumed some things while talking to her parents that she shouldn’t have and relayed them to me making it all such a bigger deal than it needs to be.
The good news is I got to talk to her and tell her things that I wish people had told me when I was just starting to navigate these waters. But behind it all, I’m reminded of how the church can destroy the lives of the most fragile by seeking first the lesson to be learned.