The Bridge to “Once We Were”*
Historical setting: 589 C.E. A Roman Ruin
What is it about ancient times that lets Roman bridges stand firm on old roads long after the empire has fallen?
History, we know, is nearly always skewed by the perspective of now. The same hymn attributed to Saint Patrick several centuries gone, comes with two different stories. Was the Patrick of this legend a warrior or a pacifist? Whichever image of courage defines his heroism depends upon if you are standing next to Jesus when he heals the severed ear of the Roman guard [Luke 22:50-51] or if you are a monk safely sheltered in the Sixth century by a Merovingian King who wields a mighty sword. The names of heroes become facts of history, but the nature of hero, and the values driving the story are mere temporal gasps in the snare of time.
If our longstanding bridges to the past were only paved with facts of names and dates, battles fought and treaties signed, telling history would be easy. But history is most truly told by the storytellers. They know the human hearts of all of those who crossed over on the frozen rivers with Detriech or Attila, or lived in the ruins of Rome with Chilperic or Columbanus. And they might tell you who were their lovers and their friends. How were the common people saved from the despots? What were their prayers? Did they plead with a god they’d never met in person, or did they pitch tents for a transfiguration?
Old bridges are surely a path into the old ruins. Is it any wonder the bridges into history are so often feared and forbidden? What if we found we were the same human species as the ancients? Its easy to say the throngs following Jesus must have been illiterate, or at least not as brilliant as we, so Jesus was talking down to people when he told us to love our enemies. Of course we believe we are smarter than that now. But what if we aren’t?
What if by knowing our history we recognize ourselves as despots and masters, slaves and serfs, haters and lovers, fighters and pacifists, winners and losers, liars and prophets… What if knowing history requires confessions and restitution and peace making?
Crossing the bridge to “Once We Were” is indeed, a fearsome dare. Dear God stay close. Guide human eyes to see what is true and then let us love others as we learn to love ourselves anyway, any way.
*[Blogger’s personal note] We first sang “Bridge over Troubled Water” plunging into the unknowns of marriage ahead, imagining a roiling and rollicking dangerous future as we were promising away our fears. Today these five decades of marriage are comfortable nostalgia that smells like a wet dog after a passing shower. Good to be with you today Tom remembering all our dogs and bridges of years past.
(Lazarus story-line Continues Tuesday, March 22)