You say to me:
“Cross over the bridge.
Go ahead, come on over.
It’s sturdy enough.
Don’t look down, though,
or you might get terrified
and never walk across.
Don’t look back too long
or you will lose courage
and want to stay right where you are.
– Excerpted from the poem“Crossing Over” by Joyce Rupp
A few years ago I found myself walking on a trail that led to a beautiful small chapel with a sculpture of a pregnant Mary. It was a lovely walk until I came to a floating bridge that stood between my destination and me. It was uneven and moved with the water’s current. I thought twice about going across that little bridge to get to the other side.
Scripture addresses the struggle to leave behind the familiar and comforting to go forward into an unknown future, as well as the consequences of not doing so. Lot and his wife were urged by angels to flee Sodom and Gomorrah before its destruction without looking back. Lot’s wife “looked down, looked back” and “was turned into a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19:15-26).
The Israelites wandering in the desert complained to Moses, “Would that we had meat for food! We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (Numbers 11:4b-6). They “looked down, looked back” and it prevented them from trusting that God was leading them to something better than slavery in Egypt and its leeks and melons.
In the Holy Rule St. Benedict encourages those contemplating a vocation to monastic life as well as those just beginning: “Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (R.B. Prologue 48-49).
To “look down, look back” and to reflect on the experiences that shape us, helps us to go forward and move on whole-heartedly, taking with us whatever we will need for life’s journey. Sometimes “looking down, looking back” prevents us from moving on to a “future full of hope” (Jer. 29:11) which God promises to us. If ever we find ourselves feeling “stuck,” then perhaps we need to pray for discernment, as well as a deepening of faith and trust in God.
For all of us in transition
who have bridges to cross,
bless us, God of the journey,
gift us with the desire to go ahead.
Help us to trust
that the bridge will be strong
and the risk will be worth it.
– Excerpted from the poem “Crossing Over” by Joyce Rupp
Sister Ann Marie Wainright
Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges.