It’s a cold December morning, and my daughter and I are late leaving the house for seminary. I’m rushing around the house with just one glove on. “Just a minute,” I call out. “I want to find my other glove.
My daughter isn’t particularly eager to attend seminary today, so I give up on the glove before she loses momentum and decides to stay home to study more for her history class.
After she fastens her seatbelt, she starts checking the settings for the headlights and the heater. I’m in the passenger seat, using my phone to look on the floorboards and between the seats for my lost glove. “Mom. I can’t concentrate on driving if you’re waving that light around.”
Right before I turn off the flashlight on my phone, the light catches silver coins strewn around the floorboards, but not my missing glove. I leave the coins on the floor so that I don’t further distract the driver in training.
On the way to seminary, I can hear my daughter’s breathing change to that cadence correlated with crying. I don’t ask her what’s wrong. She’ll just get more upset, and we’ll probably not make it out of the parking lot and into the church building. While we drive in silence, I replay a past conversations in my head.
“A student in my seminary class used a friend of mine from school as an example of sin. By name. And everyone laughed.”
After she parks the car, she sits quietly for a minute. I’m composing drafts of conversations in my head:
Do I try distracting her with questions about upcoming school responsibilities? Do I list some of her many strengths? Do I emphasize the love her father and I have for her? Do I explain how I work around tensions I experience with church doctrine, policies, or people? Do I emphasize how I am sometimes the trial at church that other people have to endure? Do I bear my testimony the gospel principles I hold most dear?
She takes a deep breath and opens the door. As she grabs her backpack from the backseat, I call out: “You have infinite worth. I love you broken, but God loves you perfect.”
After she enters the church, I sit in the car and think about all the parenting choices I’ve made in sixteen years.
For the next couple of days, I intermittently paw through the house, trying to find that lost glove. By Sunday night, I still haven’t found it.
I’m upstairs in the office while my daughter is working with my husband to do make up work for seminary. I can hear her talking through tears. I catch fragments: “And then the teacher made a joke about someone appearing to be gay, and everyone laughed.” And later “Why is this the main focus of the youth program? Don’t be gay.”
It’s after dinner, and I see an announcement on Facebook about the fourth and final meeting of an interfaith series in my town. I missed the ones hosted by one of the local Catholic parishes, the local Jewish temple, and the local Presbyterians. But I have twenty minutes to make it to the one hosted by the local Muslims at the mosque less than a mile from my house.
Luckily, I was too tired to change out of my church clothes, so I can easily get there on time. I put on my coat, scarf, hat and one glove. At least that one glove shields me from touching the cold steering wheel.
The topic for this last evening is “The Family.” All four faith leaders talk about the challenges they have maintaining membership with the changing nature of the family in the modern era.
The Catholic priest talks about the tension between the theology of the family and the pastoral realities of what contemporary families face: cohabitation, divorce, blended families, mixed-faith families, and youth increasingly choosing “none” as their religious affiliation. The rabbi talks about his dwindling congregation and even speaks about all but one of his four married children choosing to marry outside of the faith. The Presbyterian minister talks about focusing on community as broader than the traditional family and how his congregation embraced a pregnant single woman and offered her a lot of practical support for several years of being a new parent. The speaker from the mosque (a long-time member rather than the newly appointed imam) talked about the influences of the media that are fracturing the traditional family.
I came to offer support for interfaith efforts, but as I listened to the faith leaders speak, my heart grew heavy. These leaders are devout, dedicated, and immersed in the issue of faith and family. And it’s a complex, high stakes, and emotional issue for them.
Next they opened the discussion up for questions and answers. Members of the audience from one faith asked questions about another faith: “Why don’t priests marry?” “Do American Muslims arrange marriages for their children?” “Will rabbis perform marriages between Jews and non-Jews?” “What roles do women play in church services?”
One table over from me, a beautiful young woman with an oval face and kohl-lined eyes raised her hand. She was wearing a gold and black head scarf and a beautiful full-length dress. She asked the rabbi—who was leading the Q&A portion of the evening—“What can I do to comfort my parents? I was raised Catholic, but I have converted to Islam. They are in a lot of pain. What can I do to help them accept my choice?”
You could hear the whole room collectively stop breathing. I looked around at the hundred or so people of many faiths, people who gathered to open their hearts to other ways of encountering God, other lived experiences. It was very quiet.
While I listened to the faith leaders share their experience ministering to families who migrate from one faith to many faiths, I looked down at my lap and start twisting the single glove sitting in my lap.