Addiction, NA, Narcotics Anonymous, Recovery, Spiritual Principles, Twelve Steps

Forgiveness and Narrow Bridges

I used to live in an area with a lot of narrow bridges that crossed the St. James River in Missouri. Neither the river, nor most of the country roads that intersected it were very big. So the intersections didn’t merit modern bridges.

Instead, those bridges were relics. Most of them were steel with wooden planks for cars to drive across. They were rickety and only one vehicle at a time was able to cross.

In time, and with experience, I grew accustomed to these bridges, and the system for crossing. It was pretty easy really. A first-come, first-served scenario in which I would always check for traffic from the opposite direction before crossing.

After crossing, if someone else had been waiting their turn, friendly smiles and a wave would be exchanged. I suppose the brief exchange between drivers served as positive reinforcement for a job well done, acknowledging that the rules of bridge crossing had been observed.

A handful of times, crossing those bridges was not quite so seamless. On occasion, I would cross paths with someone who violated the etiquette for one-lane bridges.

On one such occasion, we met in the middle of a bridge. I had almost made it half-way across the bridge when I saw the offending car pop up onto the bridge’s wooden surface. I stopped almost immediately, hoping the other driver would see me and retreat back down the way they had come.

No such luck. The other driver pressed on, slowly driving across until meeting me in the center. That’s when I saw it. The look of fear was on the other driver’s face. It was that “what now?” kind of deer in headlights look.

I was not exactly brimming with understanding or compassion for the other driver. It wasn’t like my car was hard to see or anything. What was this guy thinking?

Somewhat begrudgingly, I put my car in reverse, and slowly backed my way across the bridge. As I did, the other driver was able to continue forward. Once we were both off the bridge, the other driver rolled down his window, motioning for me to do the same.

I could see the relief in his eyes. Once my window was down he offered a sincere apology, telling me how grateful he was that I had backed up. He shared that he was scared when he saw that I was already on the bridge, because the thought of driving in reverse on that rickety old bridge was more than he could take.

Not to worry, I assured him. These things happen to the best of us…

Last night I had a meeting in the middle of a bridge. Of course I’m speaking figuratively here. A brother in the Narcotics Anonymous program had shared some truth with me that ruffled my feathers. His words had cut deep into my pride and ego.

Usually, when someone says or does something like this, I am able to consider the source and just move on. Last night was different. Last night it was someone for whom I have a good deal of love and respect. So, I called him on my way home.

Before long, we were in the middle of that bridge. No room in our conversation either of us to pass the other. The conversation grew heated on my side. It was as though I was on the bridge honking my horn, revving my engine, and flashing my lights, demanding that he yield. Demanding that he back down. Demanding my “right of way.”

The more demanding I became, the calmer he became. Oh the frustration. The least he could do is honk back. I so wanted him to react. Instead, he simply responded.

My honking was met with gentle words.

The revving of my engine was met with the steady idling of his.

Flashing lights were met with love.

Then I saw it. Like a light going off in my head, I was faced with truth. This brother, the one who had offended me. The one who had driven into my bridge, truly loved me.

I backed my car down the bridge. As we passed, he rolled down his window and we spoke. Really spoke. The truth of my pride and ego were exposed.

As we spoke, I offered an apology for how I had conducted myself in the center of that bridge. He told me I didn’t owe him an apology. He assured me that he relishes such encounters, because through them comes growth.

So, rather than apologizing, with my voice cracking from emotions, I thanked him. Not only for loving me enough to endure my behavior in the center of that bridge, but for helping me discover some things about Kent that still need work.

After I got off that phone call, it really hit me. For the first time in my life I have friends who truly love me. The kind of friends who will meet me in the center of life’s bridges, allow me to act like a fool, and still love me when I finally come to my senses.

I have a lot of work to do in my life. Thanks to the NA program, I don’t have to do this work alone. My life is richer today than it ever has been. Filled with love and joy. Filled with the opportunity to be better tomorrow than I am today. Truly a new way to live.

Have a remarkable day!

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