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Searching for a Lost Glove

By Karen Austin

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.

About Karen Austin

After living in UT, HI, CA, VA, DC, WI, WV & KS, Karen now lives in Newburgh, IN with her husband and two children. She's been a BYU writing tutor, an English teacher, technical writer, director of academic support services, and aging studies adjunct. She's reinventing herself--again. New role still pending, but mature athlete, thrift store fashionista, and court jester are strong candidates. She maintains the blog The Generation Above Me.

15 thoughts on “Searching for a Lost Glove”

  1. This bloomed my heart wide: “You have infinite worth. I love you broken, but God loves you perfect.”

    I hugely admire those who ask questions: your daughter, whose heart and character are obviously in the right place, the woman at the meeting seeking to comfort her parents, and you too, Karen, for wanting to be the giver of comfort, support, and the right conversational moment for sharing.

    It breaks my heart when people believe that they are not welcome, especially at church, for being who they are. You may not find that other glove, but I guarantee that there are people willing to hold on with you along the way – and I'm one of them.

    Thank you for writing this treatise, treaty and gift.

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  2. Kel: Thank you for your generous and detailed comment. While I'm writing, I have to guess how readers will respond. You are very kind to let me know what ideas / feelings are coming across via all these pixels on the screen. That young woman's comment was really a profound moment–so intimate while also being so public. I wanted to bring readers into the room (and into the context in which I was experiencing it). It was such a mix of anxiety and compassion. I hope that she and her family can find a path. (Well, and that my daughter and I can find ours, too.) Thanks for holding on with me. You often give me the gift of your attention. Hugs and more hugs to you and yours.

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  3. 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.

    Why does she just get more upset when you ask her what's wrong? Is it because of how you respond when she tells you?

    Why is it so much more important to get her into the church building than to take your crying daughter's concerns seriously?

    Why are you making her do something she hates, which is watch other people be terrible to people she cares about?

    What are you hoping to get out of this? Why is that more important than protecting your precious and sensitive child from bullies?

    Do you plan on having any kind of a relationship with her, once she moves out?

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  4. “You have infinite worth. I love you broken, but God loves you perfect.”

    Did you mean "God loves you perfect-ly," as in that he's even more capable of loving your daughter than you are and she can rely on him even if she struggles to relate to you?

    Or did you mean "I love you in your broken state, but God only loves an imaginary perfected version of you?" That he can see her only as that imaginary perfect daughter, and doesn't love her as she actually is?

    I ask because I can't tell what you meant, and it's possible that she couldn't either.

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  5. This broke my heart, all of it–and my heart goes out to you, your daughter, your family, and the other students. This post is well written. Thank you for sharing it.

    I graduated from seminary. So, it was a really hard decision to agree to my daughter's desire to not attend seminary her last two years of high school.

    Later (around the time she graduated from high school), I migrated between faiths. I did not abandon everything that was dear to me, but I found rest and new growth for my soul.

    I have not yet regretted either decision.

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  6. You are very kind to express impassioned concern for my relationship with my daughter. In the interest of brevity and honoring the complex intimacy of my 16 year relationship with my daughter, let me just step aside and let St. Paul take the floor. : "1 Corinthians 13:12King James Version (KJV) 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (This also applies to my relationship with blog readers.)

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  7. Kindra: Thank you for loaning me a part of your heart as a fellow parent. All my best to you and yours as you continue to forge relationships of faith and family. I have a sign in my living room that says "God is too immense to reside in one place." Evidence of divinity exists in abundance (in nature and in people) if we just look. Hugs to you.

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  8. People take different paths to find their truths and God is still involved in their journeys. We excuse the gay teen for leaving the LDS church. Simple authenticity is given as the reason. Maybe it is time that we allow our straight children that same option. Maybe it is time to stop worrying about perfect attendance and find out what is disturbing a 16 year old to a point that she is too often in tears. Maybe it is time to trust Inc her ability to choose her own spiritual path.

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  9. Karen, thank you for your beautiful replies (I have read the replies to others' comments, too).

    I want to ensure that you know that my limited sharing of my experiences and the statement that I have not yet regretted my decisions was in no way a suggestion of decisions you should make. I know there are many options for addressing concerns available and that each individual and family seeks personal revelation that is specific for them. I only meant to share that I am familiar with the heartache and the process of wrestling to determine the way forward.

    From your reply, I think you understood my intent. But, having left the comment open to interpretation has been bothering me since I posted it. Hugs to you, too.

    (PS. I am not sure where this reply will appear in the comments–it is addressing my own comment only and Karen's reply.)

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  10. D. I feel about 20 different ways about this, and all the comments here represent one of the 20 ways. And so does my daughter. As I mentioned above, it's complex, it's emotional, it's high stakes. (She's not willing yet to make herself ineligible to apply to church schools.) She gave me permission to write about this. We are both in a really difficult crossroads. If either one of us had absolute clarity about this, I would not have written about it because it would be a black-and-white issue. Thank you for taking the time to loan your insight to me while I'm inhabiting a heart-wrenching space.

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  11. I encouraged my older daughter to ask quiet and thoughtful questions during lessons in seminary. I helped her negotiate theological doctrine and church history and present church culture that she found uncomfortable. I encouraged her as the Laurel Class President and in seminary attendence and in accomplishing her YW Recognition. I drove with her to Provo as she settled into school and listened as she complained about the unique cultural difficulties at BYU when a co-ed is studying in the hard sciences. I stood in the temple as she took out her endowment and again when she married 2 weeks later.

    Later, she left the church.

    I look back and wonder at what point her church life became less about a relationship with God and more about pleasing her mother. Those thoughts have changed how I parent. I want children who feel the influence of the divine in their lives. I want children who strive to please God. I want children who live and love authentically. I would be sad to have my child die and meet with God and explain that every choice in life was only made to keep family peace or to make their mother happy.

    Trusting God to lead my child means to trust God enough to know He might lead them down a path that is unfamiliar to me. That doesn’t make the path wrong.

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  12. This post resonated with me in many ways. We are all doing our best but in the end we all have to make our own way through life choices; and this includes how we see ourselves and others, our faith, our family, society, culture etc. Life is complicated, and more so in this era. I personally feel that the reason most people leave church is not because of the gospel but because of people, there is simply too much judging and not enough love. All of my three children left the church as teenagers. My husband was serving as the Bishop at the time, it was such a hard time for us all, more so because of the reactions of other people in the ward. There is no one answer of how to cope with struggles within ourselves and others, we all just muddle through with love and understanding. Sending hugs and prayers.

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  13. Kay: Sorry for the delay in replying. (One of my relatives had surgery with complications and then a series of falls, so I bought a plane ticket and went out of town for a while.) Yes, I wish that people would respond to my daughter in ways outside of the hallways of church. She's a little reserved, but since we moved, she doesn't have an adult from church that she feels close to. There is not much I can do about that, but I try to be supportive, encouraging, and validating to the teens in my ward. And I still have a line of communication with my own daughter. We're all in a tough space right now. Hugs to you and your family.

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