The Bridge

Twice a year, my Thursday Night Men’s Group holds a weekend retreat that combines 12-Step meetings,  fellowship and fun, a weekend that has become a spiritual pick-me-up for Older Eyes.   Each year, the retreat has a different leader who sets the tone of the retreat with a theme and chooses the leaders for the meetings.  This fall, I am the leader and in looking through some material from past retreats, I found this written exercise.  My friend Ron (who looks enough like a certain late sixties folk-singer that we call him Ron Denver) provided an uncaptioned picture, and asked us to write a short piece on what we saw.   Some of the men hated the exercise, but Older Eyes, ever the writer, loved it.  What I saw was an allegory for my spiritual struggle, which I’m posting here in abridged form.

On one end of the bridge I sit, eighteen years old.    On the other end is God as I saw him at eighteen.   He’s not looking at me because I’m never good enough to approach Him, a hypocrite who acts holy in church then behaves however he pleases.   I’m facing the other way because I can’t look God in the eye, too guilty, too afraid of eternal damnation.  So what I do is get up and walk away.   I don’t believe in God any more, I’m an atheist now, so there.  To Hell with the bridge, whatever it is.   Of course, the bridge is spirituality, the path to actually working the Second Step, Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can return us to sanity.   My greatest spiritual struggle has been working that step.   For many years, I wanted the benefits of crossing the bridge without going anywhere near it.   The bridge wasn’t for me … God would either still be sitting there, back turned in disgust, or wielding the lightning bolt that would send me careening into Hell.   I tried self-help spiritual approaches that didn’t include God.  I tried science and rationalism, determined to convince myself there was no bridge, that the God sitting there was an illusion, or that the bridge really led nowhere.  I tried to think my way across.  But the bridge was always there and always called to me.

Working the steps required that I take a fresh look at the bridge among friends who didn’t tell me how to cross it or say that I need to hurry or laugh at me because I wanted to talk about it instead of crossing.   I spend a lot of time on the bridge these days.   I still don’t know where it goes and sometimes I can’t see God there with me but I pretend.   We talk frequently, often in my writing or when I talk about spiritual matters with other people, even though sometimes it feels like I have an imaginary friend.   We wrestle.   God throws me off the bridge and I have to climb back on … I jump and God helps me climb on again.   Other times, I throw try God off the bridge but then I speak to my grandson or see a hawk in our birdbath or my son’s Siamese cat comes to greet me in the morning.   Sometimes, friends tell me that they just took God’s hand and walked across, that they are so happy on the other side – I’m envious that it seems so easy for them.  I shout at God, Why can’t I do that?   Why did You make me such a skeptic?    God says, I enjoy our discussions …   And guess what?  I’ve learned to love the bridge.

What do you see in The Bridge?

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2 Comments on “The Bridge”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I love that, Bud. What a wonderful way to look at the struggle of excepting something on faith, I,too am envious of people that have no doubts and are resolute in “whatever” they believe. I used to keep waiting for the moment I would be “born again”. Everyone made it sound so easy.

    That is a lovely piece of writing.

  2. territerri Says:

    I don’t know how I feel about the bridge, but your reflection on it gives me hope. I’m in the midst of that faith struggle (for years now, it seems.) To know that you came to terms with it makes me less anxious that I might never.

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