I chuckled as I recounted the time my principal had offered to let me skip a grade as well.
I remember talking about it with my dad… and concluding that I would not skip fourth grade… in order to stay with my friends.
And stay smart.
I mean, if I skipped an entire grade… wouldn’t I miss important information that would help me do well in fifth grade? Were they trying to set me up to fail?
Well, maybe not, but as a little ‘ol third grader, I had some good rationale (if I don’t say so myself). I continued on as normal.
What struck me for the first time last night was this:
Fourth grade was one of the most difficult grades of my entire life… because of relationships (not academics).
It was the year that all the girls in my class chanted “Nark, nark, Nark!” at me on the softball field.
It was the year I stopped being girly.
It was the year I stopped hanging out with the girls.
It was the year the boys took me in…
And it stayed that way for the next TWENTY years!
A year that affected twenty years of my life… in really deep and meaningful ways.
If only my dad would’ve said, “Marcy… you are going to skip a grade,” instead of giving me a choice.
If only, in his experience and wisdom, he’d said, “Darling, I’m going to spare you the travesties of bullies, humiliation, and a life of misunderstanding female relationships. Let’s skip this year.”
But he didn’t.
In His tender love… he allowed me to walk through a fourth grade valley.
Because it was also in this year that I learned to be a voice for the voiceless. An advocate for the underdog.
It’s probably why I’m a professional Counselor today.
Because he let me suffer. He let me experience pain. Turmoil. Hurt.
To understand, through experience, the suffering of others.
To offer them the comfort that he embraced me with during that year… to say, “I know how you feel… I’ll be your friend.”
Because he didn’t just let me walk it alone… like some cruel, heartless dad.
He walked it with me. Holding my hand. Knowing that the wounds of this year would become the fertilizer for something beautiful.
Friendships with women that I appreciate all the more because of the years that found it lacking.
A soul connection with other sufferers of injustice.
A healthy sense of what I want in women friends… and the knowledge that it does exist, even if it must be searched out.
And it’s worth it.
My dad taught me that love is, sometimes, to let someone walk through the hard stuff.
Not to rescue them from it for our own comfort. Only to cause them to miss some of the most beautiful lessons of life.
Lessons that don’t easily fade with time, distractions, or new endeavors.
But lessons that stick all the while… shaping us into better people, better humans because of them.
That fourth grade year was hard. It’s not a year I’d like to repeat.
But it’s a year I refuse to un-do.
Thank you, dad! For loving me so much that you let me experience the heart of other sufferers! With my hand in yours, your eyes on mine, guiding me through the sorrows and aches… to become a lover of the unloved because of my own journey!
May I be this same kind of mother… a mom who allows my children to experience the fullness of life, sorrows and all… not quenching it because of my own heart-pain on their behalves. But that love would win out and we would be a better planet for it. That with tenderness, affection, and comfort I could journey those paths with them, hand in hand, us and my dad…
And may you know that hand of dad too… as you walk through pain and suffering… to know that it’s love that leads you there, guides you through it, lets the hard stuff matter, un-wasted. Un-alone.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.