Faith

Troubled Waters ? Don’t get washed away see and be the bridge.

The song Bridge Over Troubled Water by the legendary Paul Simon was written when he was listening to a great deal of gospel music. It was written as a “little hymn” according to Simon.  For me, it is the perfect backdrop to a number of situations I’ve encountered over the past few weeks.  Simon starts his epic song with the words, “when you’re weary, feeling small.”  I read a little about this and he was worried at the time that the lyric was not detailed enough. Simon lamented that the stroke of his songwriter’s pen was too broad. We know now, nothing could be further from the truth, because this hits all of us at our core. Its simplicity is its beauty, because, at our center, in one way or another, in this messy, broken world we live in, we hear our imperfect lives in that opening line.  If this is true and we are always going to find ourselves, at times, “down and out” with “pain all around,” how do we make it through?  

 

John Legend’s performance of Bridge Over Troubled Water

I got a joyous call last night from a friend. A big friend with big news about a bridge that was being built over his troubled waters.  When I say this man is big I mean he is big, not only in stature (ex-football player,) but in spirit, in voice, in humor and, most importantly, in faith.  Just a few weeks ago, this big man was, as Simon put it, “feeling small.” A few weeks back, I got a very different call from my friend and he described to me how he was taken down to his knees by a life event.  My friend was down and out and he described that he had at least three blindingly dark days, before he called anyone.  For a short time, he was breathless, answer-less and drowning in the midst of his troubled waters.

When we are in these dark places, we have trouble seeing a bridge to the other side, let alone the other side.  Like I said, my big friend was a big man of faith and he was blessed to have two strong women who pointed him toward the bridge to the other side, praying for him before, during and after his knee-capping situation.  Despite this incredible support, my friend, found himself, for a short while, where we all go, that place where there are no answers, no solutions, no end to the pain.  The first thing we need to acknowledge in those times is that we are not alone.  Even if you don’t believe in God or anything greater than yourself, the reality is you are not alone.  You are never alone.  True, my faith tells me that, but I have always been made to belong way before I ever believed and one thing I have always known but used to have a hard time admitting, is that if I will let people in, there are folks who want to surround me with love and compassion. There are escorts over the bridge.

Which brings me to another friend of mine and another communication yesterday.  This wise person is much younger than me, but she has already learned what it took me nearly 50 years to figure out.  Namely, that even when we are “down and out” and “pain is all around” we are learning and we will get to use that learning later on.  So even in the midst of our troubles, we are served best if we see the bridge being built.  This friend shared the awesome story of her dying grandma who comforted her granddaughter while she was in the midst of caring for her in her final days on earth.  She shared with me that her beloved Nana told her  “you’re gaining a lot of experience through this.” Nana didn’t mean that my friend was learning how to take care of a dying person, she meant that she was growing on an emotional and spiritual level. Yes, even in the midst of suffering, a bridge was being built.  My friend shared this story with me because, as part of not only her job but who she is as a human being, she is called to comfort people every single day.  She shared with me that she recently saw that her Nana was right.  Since her Nana passed, she has been able to use that experience to relate and empathize better than ever before with people in similar situations.  A bridge over troubled waters was built and now she gets to be the bridge for others.

That is the story of two friends on the other side of the bridge but I have several other loved ones that are right in the midst of the troubled waters today.  One that can barely make out the bridge in the distance although she feels like she will drown at any moment and another two who just got plunged into the stormy sea of loss and pain and are gulping water fast.  Each of these folks is relying on God and those around them to help them find their way.  It is painful to watch someone you love go through these trials.  One of the benefits of getting older is that you start to see the patterns and you start to get comfortable in the knowledge that there is always another side.  There is always a Bridge.

I’ll bet you know, even in your darkest times, that you are better when you let people help you when you don’t try to go it alone.  My wager is that you know, deep down that there is hope, even in the midst of sorrow and that there is always an “other side” to cross over to and always a bridge you can cross.  Of course, as a believer, I think God sent us the ultimate Bridge to lay himself down over our troubled waters and we just celebrated that gift last Sunday.   His name is Jesus.  I rely on him now to be that Bridge when “times get rough.” If you don’t know him or feel like you’ve never met him, let’s just agree that you will be better served if you seek someone or a group of someones out there to be the bridge you need when you are hurting.

Ultimately, what I have learned, is that the true keys to success in surviving troubled waters are found in two things: First, SEE THE BRIDGE, it is critical to remind yourself in the midst of trouble that there is a bridge, even if it is hard to see sometimes.  Second, BE THE BRIDGE, when someone else is hurting, they need someone to be the bridge for them.  Be courageous and start showing up for people.  Even if it is out of your comfort zone.  You don’t have to have all the answers.  Sometimes the best bridge is the one that just sits there, sturdy, trustworthy, allowing time for you to pause and look over the edge, while keeping you safe with its guardrails, quietly conveying you to the other side, when you’re ready.

Bridge over Troubled Water
When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Songwriters: Paul Simon
Bridge over Troubled Water lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
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