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broken open … are we smarter than 5th graders?

Last week this lovely got “promoted” to middle school. Let me just tell ya, if you don’t know or don’t remember, everything about this age is BIG. 

Big dreams. Big plans. (This one intends to be the first woman president. Bravo, I say!)

Big emotions. Happy, sad, scared, angry … it’s all sort of hormonally hanging out there for the whole world to see.

I watched a gaggle of girls sob openly throughout the ceremony. It signified the end of the biggest chapter of their lives so far.

I watched them comfort each other tenderly, with sweet words they consoled and with gentle hands they hugged and rubbed backs and wiped their neighbor’s tears away.

Even though I know that by this age they have surely formed into cliques, none of that was visible as these girls – young women, really – comforted each other. 

They gave each other their full attention, and even as they shed their own tears they wiped one another’s away.

And I watched when, as one, they turned to the audience with smiles stretched wide and fists held high in triumph.

Their common emotion was bigger than any differences they might have had.

So what happens to us? Aren’t we wounded by each other as we grow up, and still wounding each other as grown ups? Don’t we separate ourselves into “us and them”? Or maybe just “me and everyone else in the world besides me”? And is it just me or do some of those dividing lines seem arbitrary and maybe even a little silly. Frankly, even a whole lot sad.

We could take a lesson from these sweet silly sad girls, I think.

We could choose to cross the divides, not hold ourselves apart from each other because of real or imagined differences. We could share tears and hugs and yes, even fists of triumph.

Shall we, then?

It will require each of us to be willing to “go first.” We can’t wait around for someone else to cross the divide. We must start across the bridge, or start building one if there’s none there yet, and be willing to go all the way across. We can invite help in the building, and we can watch for our fellow bridge-crossers and link arms with them. And we can encourage those standing on the other side, the ones too scared to build or cross, that we are coming for them. To hold them close, wipe their tears, and share in their victories and defeats. To help them up, if they need it. To join them right where they are if they’re too shaky to move. 

To mourn with them when they mourn, and rejoice when they rejoice.

Let’s be like that gaggle of girls, for each other. And just see what happens.

Crossing the bridge,


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  1. Polly Polly

    What would be your advice to someone who took the first tentative steps across that bridge only to have the party on the other side blow it to smithereens without the tiniest hint of compassion, understanding or forgiveness?

  2. Angie Clayton Angie Clayton

    Hi Polly – thanks for reading and for your comment. Your question is a good one. My advice, for what it's worth, is that if the bridge is blown "to smithereens" then that is your cue to walk away from it. Don't continue to try and cross when the bridge is no longer there. Instead, be brave enough to find another bridge, with a safe person at the other end, and take the first wobbly steps toward that safe, reciprocal relationship you desire. Make sure you don't carry a torch in your own hands, and for your own well-being, truly walk away from the one that's blown to bits. Forgive them, for your own well-being, without expectation of reconciliation or change, and move forward to finding a new bridge.

  3. Polly Polly

    That sounds like a very healthy attitude and one I have had occasion to take on. In this particular instance, though, the "bridge-crosser" didn't aim for reconciliation as much as simply conciliation, lest God bring discipline upon finding disharmony in the ranks. Even when not seeking to reestablish a connection, there is an obligation to put away all malice. (And I think I understnad from your blog posts your teaching to uncover and face honestly whatever negative feelings are lurking within one's own heart). It is disheartening to reach out, to ask for forgiveness, and be met with steroidal hostility from another believer. Still, the bridge-crosser's responsibility is satisfied once a sincere attempt is made. God's peace is found there – even when the attempt damages other treasured relationships. So, I agree with what I perceive as the takeaway from your response…sometimes you just have to accept that the party on the other side of the bridge is not "smarter than a fifth grader."

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