Friday, April 22, 2011

Bridge Over Troubled Water

"I'm a worrier," she said frankly. "It's what we do. My mother was a worrier, and I come from a long line of worriers. I don't understand how you can change that."

Does this ring true for you?

Recent conversations with friends remind me that fear and worry bear down on us, young and old. The worry spectrum spans from mild apprehension to anguish; it moves from irritation and vexation all the way to inconsolable distress. One person's experience of mere annoyance will be another's churning misery. At some point we all need help with worry.

Paul Simon's 1970 "Bridge Over Troubled Water" offers a visual image. We don't stop the tumultuous water when we experience life's deluge, but we can use a bridge. Sometimes we can even be a bridge as we accompany another during a hard time.

This song was inspired by a single line from the Negro Spiritual, "Mary, Don't You Weep," about Mary (the Mary and Martha duo of Bethany) pleading with Jesus over the death of her brother Lazarus:
"I'll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me," is the portion ensconced in Billboard history after Simon and Garfunkel's version hit number one.

A single line can provide a powerful nugget for us to help focus.

Without dismissing the seriousness of one's worries, how can we be encouragers and hold the light up for one another -- and for ourselves -- as we navigate the choppy water?

  • When fears sets in, begin by turning that cyclic worry into prayer. Let the things that would take us away from God move us toward God.
  • Talk truth to yourself. Even if no one has ever whispered these words into your heart or ears, hear them now: Tell that fear that holds you in its clutches that you are unavailable -- that the One who speaks and all creation listens abides with you, giving power to the faint and strengthening you for the onslaught of worry and anxiety.
  • Speak the same truth into anxious moments and doubts. Doing so may not remove the circumstances, but it will change the stranglehold circumstances can have on our lives. From this point, we can breathe.
  • Know the importance of living in the present. Stay in the 'now.'
Remind yourself: You are a beloved child of God -- one with inadequacies and frailties common to humanity, but a child greatly loved nonetheless.

This understanding does not magically erase the worry-habits that hold some of us captive, nor does it makes us bulletproof for temptations and fears. I think it makes us all the more a target -- a target for the enemy's attack on our faith and commitment to live lives connected to God. But when we live with an increased awareness of God's Presence with us in the present, strengthening us for whatever we endure, we can allow God's Spirit to permeate us with the Peace of God's making which far exceeds any confidence we have from our own accomplishments.

This bridge comes with an invitation from Jesus: "I will be your bridge over deep water if you trust in me." He will make a way for us.

1958 Swan Silvertones version of the Spiritual, "Mary, Don't You Weep"

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