Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Bridge

I want to share this fable by Rabbi Edwin Friedman in Peter Scazzero's book "The Emotionally Healthy Church, Updated and Expanded Edition"; it's in a chapter called "Receiving the gift of limits." Kevin of Shooting the Breeze also wrote about it.

I just have to share this because this my story. Here it is:

Rabbi Edwin Friedman tells the story of a man who had given much thought to what he wanted from life. After trying many things, succeeding at some and failing at others, he finally decided what he wanted.

One day the opportunity came for him to experience exactly the way of living that he had dreamed about. But the opportunity would be available only for a short time. It would not wait, and it would not come again.

Eager to take advantage of this open pathway, the man started on his journey. With each step, he moved faster and faster. Each time he thought about his goal, his heart beat quicker; and with each vision of what lay ahead, he found renewed vigor.

As he hurried along, he came to a bridge that crossed through the middle of a town. The bridge spanned high above a dangerous river.

After starting across the bridge, he noticed someone coming the opposite direction. The stranger seemed to be coming toward him to greet him. A the stranger grew closer, the man could discern that they didn't know each other, but yet they looked amazingly similar. They were even dressed alike. The only difference was that the stranger had a rope wrapped many times around his waist. If stretched out, the rope would reach a length of perhaps thirty feet.

The stranger began to unwrap the rope as he walked. Just as the two men were about to meet, the stranger said, "Pardon me, would you be so kind as to hold the end of the rope for me?"
The man agreed without a thought, reached out, and took it.

"Thank you," said the stranger. He then added, "Two hands now, and remember, hold tight." At that point, the stranger jumped off the bridge.

The man on the bridge abruptly felt a strong pull from the now-extended rope. He automatically held tight and was almost dragged over the side of the bridge.

"What are you trying to do?" he shouted to the stranger below.

"Just hold tight," said the stranger.

This is ridiculous, the man thought. He began trying to haul the other man in. Yet it was just beyond his strength to bring the other back to safety.

Again he yelled over the edge, "Why did you do this?"

"Remember," said the other, "if you let go, I will be lost."

"But I cannot pull you up," the man cried.

"I am your responsibility," said the other.

"I did not ask for it," the man said.

"If you let go, I am lost," repeated the stranger.

The man began to look around for help. No one was within sight.

He began to think about his predicament. Here he was eagerly pursuing a unique opportunity, and now he was being sidetracked for who knows how long.

Maybe I can tie the rope somewhere, he thought. He examined the bridge carefully, but there was no way to get rid of his new found burden.

So he again yelled over the edge, "What do you want?"

"Just your help," came the answer.

"How can I help? I cannot pull you in, and there is no place to tie the rope while I find someone else who could help you."

"Just keep hanging on," replied the dangling man. "That will be enough."

Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied the rope around his waist.
"Why did you do this?" he asked again. "Don't you see who you have done? What possible purpose could you have in mind?"

"Just remember," said the other, "my life is in your hands."

Now the man was perplexed. He reasoned within himself, If I let go, all my life I will know that I let this other man die. If I stay, I risk losing my momentum toward my own long-sought-after salvation. Either way this will haunt me forever.

As time went by, still no one came. The man became keenly aware that it was almost too late to resume his journey. If he didn't leave immediately, he wouldn't arrive in time.

Finally, he devised a plan. "Listen," he explained to the man hanging below, "I think I know how to save you." He mapped out the idea. The stranger could climb back up by wrapping the rope around him. Loop by loop, the rope would become shorter.

But the dangling man had no interest in the idea.

"I don't think I can hang on much longer," warned the man on the bridge.

"You must try," appealed the stranger. "If you fail, I die."

Suddenly a new idea struck the man on the bridge. It was different and even alien to his normal way of thinking. "I want you to listen carefully," he said, "because I mean what I am about to say."

The dangling man indicated that he was listening.

"I will not accept the position of choice for your life, only for my own; I hereby give back the position of choice for your own life to you."

"What do you mean?" the other asked, afraid.

"I mean, simply, it's up to you. You decide which way this ends. I will become the counterweight. You do the pulling and bring yourself up. I will even tug some from here."
He unwound the rope from around his waist and braced himself to be a counterweight. He was ready to help as soon as the dangling man began to act.

"You cannot mean what you say," the other shrieked. "You would not be so selfish. I am your responsibility. What could be so important that you would let someone die? Do not do this to me."

After a long pause, the man on the bridge uttered slowly, "I accept your choice." In voicing those words, he freed his hands and continued his journey over the bridge.


Would you let go of the rope? Would you even accept the rope?

After reading the story, you can say that the man shouldn't have let go of the rope, that he is selfish for doing so. If I will be that man, I will surely feel guilty for letting go. However, in the story the man showed his willingness to help, he actually helped the stranger and even presented a lot of options to choose for him to be safe but the stranger kept on refusing.

I want to save the world. I want everybody to be happy. Sometimes, I unknowingly accept ropes of other people but most of the time I do this willingly. I think I am strong enough to handle everything but later on I whine because I am already exhausted and struggling to hold on. Holding other people's rope also led me to frustration and depression because I end up having regrets about not being able to do things for my self. However, I can also feel guilt for not helping all the time and all the way because I am a Christian. It's not that I feel like I am obligated to help but, I don't know, sometimes there's a part in my heart that screams that I should and I can do it.

In Ecclesiastes 3 He said, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God".

I think, helping others, even though it is what Christians should do, also needs to be prayed for. I don't do this. I don't pray if I should, I just say yes and yes even though it's not right anymore or I am not yet ready to take the rope. I know it takes time and a lot of guidance for me to change some of my ways in doing things, but I thank God for His great love. I know He can already see that I really need to be corrected as soon as possible and I thank Him for He sent me people to help me learn.


Jennifurla said...

Thanks for sharing, I am enjoying your blog.

Erika said...

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Angie Knight said...

Powerful words.

David said...

Hey Penlight,

Howdid you get that name anyway?
Staying up late at night writing?

Nevermind you don't need to answer those questions :).

Anyway... I'd like to present a proposition to you (blog related). Can you please forward me your e-mail address?

Mine is

I can talk to you about the man who refused to let go of the rope if you like however I've something else to discuss with you.

The Lord be with you sister :).

GGFB said...

great post

melanie said...

awesome post! thanks!

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kevin swan said...

wonderful, really enjoyed this thanks for sharing

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Ann Kristin

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