Why is it that churches need to put people in boxes? When Jesus spoke to and fed the crowd of 5,000, did he organize them into Youth, Singles, Young Professionals, Young Marrieds, Young Families, Pacesetters and Widowed and Divorced?
There’s a verse in Scripture that compares the body of the church to that of the human body, where all parts do their own thing but contribute to the wellness of the whole. In our current church culture, generally all the Toes meet in room B3 and the Fingers meet in B4, neither benefiting from the wisdom and perspective of the other. And the idea of fingers and toes having their own meetings kind of cracks me up.
When I was widowed at 34, I eventually (re)turned to church to help me through the grieving process – not so much for spiritual healing, although that too was certainly needed, but merely as a way to force myself to get out and interact with other humans on the longest and loneliest day of the week.
What I found when I finally ventured back to church, now in my mid-30’s, unemployed, widowed and childless, was that I didn’t fit anywhere. I had no box. I didn’t fit into the singles group, where everyone was at least ten years younger than me. And I certainly I didn’t fit into the widowed and divorced group where most everyone was 30 years older than me with grown children and grandchildren.
Nothing changed after I remarried at 39. Antique Daddy and I didn’t fit into the Newly Marrieds group. Although we were newly married, we weren’t exactly young. And now even though we have a child, we don’t fit into the Young Families group either, because you know, we’re still not young. So we kind of roam around from church to church, class to class, bugging visiting people who are comfortably snuggled into their demographic box.
And while that may sound like a complaint, it actually isn’t. I don’t really want a box. I like being with people from all seasons in life. It’s more interesting. It’s kind of fun to make people squirm when you invade their box. It’s liberating to be box free! Down with boxes people!
I was appreciating my box-free existence a few Sunday’s ago. We were visiting a church and ended up in a Sunday school class with mostly older folks. When the teacher asked that the guests be introduced, an elderly gentleman stood up and introduced his daughter who was about my age. “Everyone, I’d like you meet Susan, my daughter,” he said proudly. Then he looked at his wife who was glaring up at him through squinted eyes – his cue to quickly correct himself. “I guess I should say this is our daughter.”
“I guess so,” she said dryly in her long-vowel’d Texas accent, “Since you were out eating a hamburger when I had her.”
Gotta love an old gal that speaks her mind. See what I would have missed had I been in the Old People With Toddlers class?
Originally published November 2006.