Last week I wrote about the long hallway people take to break from institutions and groups (The Long Hallway to the Backdoor). This hallway from the place of active connection and involvement has one significant feature – it is empty. Other than, of course, the person walking its length.
When folks move away from a group (and this includes I think families and friendships as much as formal associations), they make this journey alone. Their isolation is one of the key features of that move away. I notice them on Sunday morning’s. They are the people who avoid the line to shake the pastor’s hand. They sit, even if they are a family, by themselves, cut off from those around them. They come at the last minute and leave as soon as worship ends.
The long hallway begins with this isolation. When a person or family finds themselves in that long hallway to the back door, they are already alone. Already disconnected. Already feeling that sense of loss and loneliness that will find its final expression in walking through the door. Even when a person leaves in anger or frustration, isolation is still at its core – feeling like others don’t care, feeling alone in thinking or believing a certain way.
I don’t have good answers for how we help people stay away from the backdoor. I am also painfully aware my own sense of dislocation and grief over walking through such a door (although not a church one). But I do sense that the empty hallway can be avoided or blocked.