In so many ways in the gospels Jesus strives to bridge those gaps in understanding and acceptance which keep individuals and groups apart. In his words and actions he spans the chasms of prejudice and self-interest which divide his contemporaries. The passage from John set for Sunday is a neat example of this: the lavish devotion of Mary in anointing Jesus with expensive oil and the sharp rebuke which this draws from Judas, who sees this as a waste of a precious resource which could have been sold to benefit the poor, means that Jesus finds himself caught between two seemingly irreconcilable viewpoints.
This is a draining and demanding place to stand. Bridging such gaps is an essential work of grace and one which Jesus does not shirk. His love spans hatred and persecution and even death itself. But for the rest of us such redemptive bridging can take all that we have to offer and more. This is why I am so drawn to a telling phrase in Sundays New Testament reading from Phiippians 3; verse 10 reads like a real cry from the heart: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.” Bridge-building requires nothing less than this if the anger, hurt and mistrust which so deeply divides our world is to be spanned.
In “The Bridge Poem”, Donna Kate Ruskin explores the cost and the strain which so many bridge-building people bear. It is written from the perspective of someone at breaking point. Perhaps it will build bridges of understanding and insight between those for whom the task is too much and those who consistently demand too much of them.
I've had enough
I'm sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
Can talk to anybody
I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to the my friends' parents. .
Then I've got to explain myself
I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.
I'm sick of it
I'm sick of filling in your gaps
Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people
Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip
I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
I'm sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long
I'm sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf of your better selves
I am sick
Of having to remind you to breath
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self.
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die
The bridge I must be
Is the Bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
My own weaknesses I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
I will be useful.
From This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherrie Moraga & Gloria Anzaldua, 1981
In her comment Rachel very kindly shared ‘The Bridge’, a poem by Seamus Heaney, which I gladly include here:
- Steady under strain and strong through tension,
its feet on both sides but in neither camp,
it stands its ground, a span of pure attention,
a holding action, the arches and the ramp
Steady under strain and strong through tension
Sally has also written a superb poem ‘to bridge a gap’ based on this post.