Yesterday’s poem (Runaway) emerged from a phone call that sent my afternoon on a sideways trajectory. The Sheriff’s Missing Persons office called my home, looking for my child. Not because my child was missing, but because they hoped FPK had information that would help them find a missing teen.
I will not deny that my heart stopped at the thought that someone- perhaps the school – had called the sheriff because my kiddo had not shown up for school. After all, at 15 we now have friends with access to cars and money. I steeled myself, then breathed a sigh of relief when the full message was relayed. My child was safe.
But there was still a child missing. Like all the children you’ve ever seen on milk boxes and flyers, billboards and Amber alerts… she was missing. And because we live in a large city near turnpikes and interstates that lead to airports and seaports… it is not hard to imagine any number of horrific scenarios. From homeless camps to streetcorners to container ships.
Why? Why would a 15 year old girl put herself at such risk? Why would she leave a suburban home with two parents, a brother and a dog?
Because she couldn’t imagine living there any longer. As a child, the shelter of her parents home and their fervent love of God was a comfort. But when she began to question her sexual orientation, the homophobic words that she had heard and even mimicked growing up became personal. And painful. When it became to much to bear in silence, she came out- hoping against hope that it would stop. That her parents would accept her because they had loved and raised her so carefully.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Like so many young women and men who grow up gay in fundamentalist homes, things got worse instead of better. They clamped down tighter and threatened to send her to an ex-gay ministry to “fix” the problem.
I only know this back story because she called our child. Because she knew we had been through this coming out process as a family and that we were able to love and support the FPK. She shared – in furtive phone calls that risked further punishments- the pain of rejection and how hard it was to be in her own home.
Of course, we all have felt that way at points. We had no idea that she would run. And we have no idea where she’s gone.
I wish I could tell her to come home. Heck, I wish I could go get her and bring her home.
I wish she could sit and watch the endless hours of It Gets Better videos that LGBTQ women and men and allies have posted… and see herself in them.
I wish it didn’t have to get better.
No- I pray that more of us will work to Make it Better. In the church, in schools, in our neighborhoods and cities. And in our families.
I pray for the un-numbered and unknown teens who are living on the streets because they ran.
I pray for the parents who have no idea how their careless talk is killing their children and driving them away.
I pray for the teachers, counselors and school administrators who have the power to make a difference in the lives of children who have tremendous potential, but are told in countless ways that they are worthless.
I pray for those who torment their peers – in words and actions, that whatever hurt they have endured or are enduring that causes them to lash out would be healed as well.
I pray especially that God will bring sweet A home, safe and whole. And that the grace of God and the healing of the Spirit bring wholeness to that household.
In the name of the Christ,
who bore every burden, every pain and every temptation that we face in this life
and who redeemed each of them through love and obedience,
Lord, hear our prayers.