Hank and his wife Suzanne were one of the most active couples in the church. They were leaders in their home-schooling circle, and had been instrumental in getting many parents in the congregation to take their educational responsibilities seriously. In addition to being charismatic and hard-working, they were attractive people, and their young family would have graced the cover of any respectable home-schooling magazine.
Things went very well for them until their three young children began to navigate adolescence, which turned to be, in their cases, a stretch of the river that had a lot of white water. It was pretty turbulent for a time, and over the course of a year, all three of their kids got into embarrassing trouble in varying degrees. Their oldest, their one son, was caught shoplifting. Their next daughter was found to be in a pretty steamy relationship with the son of one of the elders, and three months after that, their youngest daughter was caught sexting with one of the other kids in the youth group. It was a terrible and difficult year for them, but in all three instances, the sins were dealt with in a relatively biblical fashion, and the scandals were, as these things go, fairly short-lived. The kids appeared to be repentant, and after these episodes, things appeared to stabilize. The face plants were not repeated.
But the long-term problem was that the shine had gone off of their previously ideal parental leadership example. They were still loved and accepted by the rest of the congregation, but they were not longer sought out as a source of wisdom when it came to child-rearing. Although the congregation did not try to humiliate them, it has to be said that Hank and Suzanne still felt humiliated. And they felt humiliated simply because their advice was no longer the hot commodity it had once been. They knew in their bones that wasn’t any real way to recover that. So over a period of months, they gradually began to sit farther and farther toward the back of the church.
And one Sunday they were just gone. And as it turned out, about a month after that, one of the elders heard that they were leading a child-rearing class at a mega-church across town.
All the characters and situations in this Fifty Ways series are entirely fictional. The patterns being described, however, are not entirely fictional, and will no doubt be recognized instantly by any experienced pastor.
Image from Unsplash, by Mantas Hesthaven, @mantashesthaven