When you teach the middle grades, you see kids turn from little to bigger-than-medium in a very short time. I’m most familiar with 5th graders, those students who, in our case, were on their way to dunnnn-duh-duh-DAH! Middle School. They were “all that” from the first day and had a toe out the door starting after spring break. By the middle of May, the goal was to maintain sanity and some semblance of order and teaching. Some.
So, as in any other setting, I saw “one of everybody” in each class – and they were all becoming who they would be as adults.
Unfortunately, there was always The Instigator. The one who could sit at his desk (or her desk, of course), read his book, and be completely to blame for the shenanigans. The one who could lob a grenade with precision from a distance of 1 or 50 feet, smile sweetly, and convincingly claim innocence. A card holding member of The Eddie Haskell Society.
Good golly, Miss Molly, those kids… just GRRRRR! Partly because they disrupted my class, but secretly because I could never be that kid. I was always the one who got caught.
But the more troubling one was The Instigator 2.0. This version of trouble could lob the grenade right between two otherwise happy and friendly kids and cause a ruckus, pitting friend against friend. These little wars, usually started before school or at lunch recess, would drip over into the classroom, stirring up alliances and inflicting multiple wounds with cruel words and nasty looks.
I couldn’t take it. I knew what was happening. I watched good buddies snipe at each other. I heard words too grown-up for 5th grade being used to cut each other to the quick. I saw sweet friendships from kindergarten shatter while 2.0 walked away with a smirk. Within the school building, I don’t think I endured anything more heartbreaking.
And, my lovelies, I’m witnessing it still.
It’s not 5th graders. It’s not a mean-spirited boy or girl who delights in the pain of others for reasons we may not want to know. It’s not a child who may grow up to regret the past and find a better way.
It’s no longer a matter of letting classmates talk it out with a grown-up or, if things got real bad, move down the hall to the school social worker for a friendship game and, hopefully, a return to the good old days. It’s not the childish pranks of 2.0.
Now it’s just the pure evil of the Master Instigator. A being so corrupt, he relishes anything that keeps us distant from Jesus or each other. Cast long ago from God’s presence, he does all he can to make our lives miserable – just like his. His future is bleak and his goal is to take as many down with him as he can.
And not because he wants the company. No, he just wants to make sure that good does not prevail.
He sits just outside the conversation on Facebook and around the corner from the Twitter feeders, whispering ugliness. He watches TV “commentary” in gleeful darkness.
And, I promise you, he doesn’t give one ding-dang about the flag, the presidency, or football. He doesn’t even care whether or not people shout and use foul language to make their points. In fact, he’s got those things in the bag. Done deals.
His biggest victory is the division between us. Us Christians, I mean. People who are united in their love for Jesus. We call ourselves Brothers and Sisters in the Lord and One in Christ.
Now, there have always been topics upon which we have disagreed. Sometimes the discussion is heated. Sometimes we agree to disagree. At times, we stand our ground and continue a debate that will most likely never be resolved this side of heaven. You all know the current hot topics: homosexuality, abortion, women’s role in the church … even evolution. I know my stand on each of these, you know yours, and we probably do not occupy the same camp on every one.
But I love you and respect what you believe, even if I think you are mistaken or misguided. I love you because we know the same Truth. We agree on the Essentials, remember?
“I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” (John 14:6)
“Love Me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” (Luke 10:27)
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:33)
But I am grieved down to the roots because this Master Instigator is winning. He has manipulated and shaken our friendships because of a flag and a song. He has lobbed his grenade about football and personal choices, dividing us, revealing the worst of us…name-callers and haters.
Of course, I will tell you where I stand about this if you ask. I will share what and why in another conversation.
But for now, let’s find ways to have conversations about those issues we hold dear without huffing or rolling our eyes, the silent equivalent of “duh”.
Can we please, I beg you, stop questioning the integrity and patriotism of those with whom we share what is truly important? Can we stop hurting those God has commanded we uphold and care for?
Don’t, I beg you, let the Master Instigator win. Not one more match, duel, game, or round. Don’t let him watch our relationships shatter and walk away with a smirk.
He wins. We lose. And he doesn’t care. Not one bit. He just moves on, stalking the next best place for a crippling grenade.
I wish we could come to common ground on every single issue. I pray that we will continue to work toward peace and acceptance when we disagree. And, if we have journeyed into arguments or division, I hope we will seek reconciliation.
God wants us to be united – unified. He doesn’t ask for uniformity. But he does long for us to be “unified in the celebration of diversity.” (So good, Jeremy Trentham , from Life Church.)
God created a world full of diversity – in our singing voices, the texture of our hair, the length of our steps, the color of our skin. He gave us color preferences and fashion sense. He gave us chocolate and vanilla, strawberry and butter pecan. Hallelujah!
And He gave each of us a mind of our own. Mine doesn’t work like yours or hers or his or theirs. I’m not a liberal or conservative. Except for those Essentials, I don’t always think this or never think that. There is no one with whom I agree 100% of the time. No. One.
But I am the treasured child of the Most High God. And so are you.
So, don’t you dare, I beg you… don’t you dare let the Master Instigator enjoy one more smirk at our expense.