We gathered on a rainy Saturday afternoon at the visitor’s center for a hike to Terry Riley Bridge and the ceremony that would take place there. As rain fell and mud mucked, second grade Daisy scouts anticipated becoming Brownies.
Under raincoats, the girls wore the blue vests of Daisies, covered with badges they’d earned over two years and the array of petals representing Daisy values (including honesty & fairness, consideration & caring, making the world a better place and respect for authority, others & self).
After slippery declines and tromping twists and turns, our group arrived at the spot. Girls lined up on one side of the bridge, while family members waited for them on the other.
One by one each girl crossed the wood-planked, wobbling suspension bridge in her own signature style. Some ran; others walked solemnly. Our “Lala” walked chin up, alternating between a serious expression and a proud, wide grin.
When a girl reached the end of the bridge, one troop leader took her blue Daisy vest and replaced it with the brown vest of a Brownie, proclaiming to those assembled across the bridge, “_________ is now a Brownie girl scout!”
The other troop leader hugged the new Brownie and said, “You are brave, and we are so proud of you. Congratulations.”
And then those assembled cheered.
I can’t stop thinking about the metaphor for all of us in the wobbly boards of that bridge, in the walk from one side to another, in the being named… and embraced.
Part of the beauty in rites of passage is that they not only delineate the significance of a moment in time for those making passage, but also point to greater truths for those of us witnessing the rite.
Watching my girl’s face and body language, I was struck by the mix of emotions in crossing over — for in embracing something new and exciting, there is most often, too, a form of loss.
Parents feel it as we watch our children grow another year older and more them, and yet we grieve the fast passing of time, the way their skin grows taut and our laps grow small. Children feel it in the move from young childhood to adolescence, from among the youngest to the oldest, into new privileges and new bodies and increasing responsibility for their lives. We experience it in the hope of new opportunities — ones for which we may look forward with anticipation, but for which we feel highly unprepared, lacking skill and capacity.
Watching the Daisies walk (and run) to become Brownies, I was caught up, too, by the significance of the bridge. The fear involved in unsteady footing, the land so far below shaky passage, as well as the necessity of bridges to bring us from one side across and to a new place.
And I recognized again what beauty in the crowd of witnesses — those beckoning us from the other side, those cheering from behind, those whispering into our ear, “we are proud of you.” Those beholding as we are proclaimed something new.
Perhaps for you today, you’ve got your own bridge to cross, and you’re afraid. Or doubting. Or grieving….you liked where you stood before. Maybe you are shrinking back, wondering if you’re in the right place. Or maybe you’re ready to run.
Maybe something is holding you on the safe side and you aren’t yet willing to step out onto the bridge.
Maybe you are on the bridge, caught up in the sway back and forth, looking at the chasm below and wondering if it might just be better to turn around and start across another day.
Maybe you long for witnesses of how far you’ve come to say, well done. To remind you of what’s true. Keep pressing on, sister soldier. We are proud of you. And you are brave. And you are new.
Perhaps we do well to see life as one long bridge, one long race (metaphors certainly abound in that case). Or some days we may do better to recognize all the bridges, all these rites of passage — the bridge we crossed last year, the bridge right at our feet, the one just ahead — all the connections marking our journey from there to here.
Now here to there.
What’s a bridge you’ve crossed? How did that feel? What truth did you learn?
What do you think God is saying to you as you ready to cross or continue across the divide? Is there a way I, as a fellow traveler, can support you on the bridge?
Are you feeling afraid? Unsure of next steps? Alone? Excited, but nervous to hope too big?
I’d love to be among those cheering you on. Share in the comments or feel free to contact me (via email) by using the form below. Thank you, as always, for your presence here.