Tag: #broken

Let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm…

The poet of my youth was one Gordon Sumner, aka Sting. The first concert I ever went to was Dream of the Blue Turtles, his debut solo album. A bit odd for a kid my age as all my other friends went to the Journey, AC/DC and KISS concerts, and I loved all that music too, but my  teen and young adult heart was drawn to the Billy Joels, the Elton Johns, the James Taylors and the Stings of the music world.

When we are young, suffering through unrequited love and longing and trying to figure out who we are, the songs of our youth have a different meaning. They apply in different ways. What I now feel is the true test of a great song is if that song can grow along with you, gaining alternate meaning as you (hopefully) gain wisdom and understanding.

When I first heard Fortress Around Your Heart, my thoughts were fixed on unrequited teenage love and angst. I wanted to build a bridge to some girl’s heart that I had a crush on and well let’s just say I am thankful that bridge was never built, but you couldn’t have told me that at the time! (hormones are an amazing elixir!) At the time, Sumner’s lyrics acted on my young wounded heart as both salt and salve.

It was only later that I realized I didn’t really get the intended meaning of the song at all. 

Here is what Sting himself says about it and let me share the lyrics, before I resume: 

“Fortress’ is about appeasement, about trying to bridge the gaps between individuals. The central image is a minefield that you’ve laid around this other person to try and protect them. Then you realise that you have to walk back through it. I think it’s one of the best choruses I’ve ever written.” Sting

Under the ruins of a walled city
Crumbling towers in beams of yellow light.
No flags of truce, no cries of pity;
The siege guns had been pounding through the night.
It took a day to build the city.
We walked through its streets in the afternoon.
As I returned across the fields I’d known,
I recognized the walls that I once made.
Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I’d laid.

And if I’ve built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.

Then I went off the fight some battle that I’d invented inside my head.
Away so long for years and years,
You probably thought or even wished that I was dead.
While the armies are all sleeping beneath the tattered flag we’d made.
I had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I’d laid.

And if I’ve built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.

This prison has now become your home,
A sentence you seem prepared to pay.
It took a day to build the city.
We walked through its streets in the afternoon.
As I returned across the fields I’d known,
I recognized the walls that I once made.
Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I’d laid.

And if I’ve built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.

Songwriter: Gordon Sumner
Fortress Around Your Heart lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Have you ever sought to reconcile with someone, someone who you encircled in trenches and barbed wire, setting them aside, building in distance and letting time and / or physical and / or emotional distance create a chasm between you? 

We probably all do this every day to some degree with various people? Often, this is only a natural outgrowth of the changing seasons of life or bandwidth, but sometimes it is deeper than that. Sometimes, we are a full-on intentional construction crew separating ourselves from one another on purpose.

Inevitably, just as the poet shares with us, right after we build up the battlements around ourselves and the other, we go off and fight some battle we invent inside our heads. We fill our thoughts with all of these things that may or may not be true about the other person in the gap of time since we were last close to them.

“They probably (think) or even wish that I was dead”…

…is a poignant representation of those kinds of thoughts. In the end, this only makes the chasm deeper, the battlements sturdier and the barbed wire sharper.

This fear of what the other is thinking, this damage that we do by cutting the ties that bind us, however tenuous, creates a condition where, over time, there are no flags of truce, there are no cries of pity, the armies all just lay there sleeping and we know we have a mind field to walk through to get back to that person.

This dynamic keeps people away, sometimes forever. If they do reconcile, it is painful and treacherous as they navigate the mines they laid down with sparse, misconstrued or a vaccum of communication in the intervening timeframe.

What does this mean for us? What can and should we do about it? Is reconciliation always right? I am not sure full reconciliation is always right and I am not sure you have to build a bridge with every person you ever built battlements around? Sometimes, the risk is real, but the key is to make sure we haven’t simply convinced ourselves the risk is authentic. The trick is to make sure we are not inventing battles inside our heads to avoid the discomfort of walking on the mines we’ve laid.

However, I would challenge you to be careful about how many people you keep in the fortress. I would ask that you scan the horizon and look for all the keeps, moats, fortresses and chasms that are in the landscape of your life. I would share that when I did this I found several bridges that needed rebuilding and it was hard work. I had to walk through those #$@!% mines I’d laid with several people…and it was some of the scariest stuff I have ever done. Yet, in hindsight, just like our invented battles, I realized the fear and my prediction of the number of mines I found waiting for me, was nothing like what I actually encountered. In each case, I found walking back to be much easier than I ever allowed myself to believe.

If it was so scary, you might ask, why do it? Isn’t life easier when we keep our distance? I have found that that is a deception. It can feel easier in the short run, and I think that is what gave birth to Sting’s epic song and many of our wall building endeavors.

I did it because of these reasons and because of what I learned about this Jesus guy, Who taught me to love one another not as I would love myself but as He loved me. That told me that I didn’t get to keep the battlements up where they were no longer necessary. That taught me to build bridges and I did, and I learned that I not only freed the people I sought to reconcile with from the barbed wire, but I freed myself.

I saw this video meme the other day of these two bucks who had locked horns over barbed wire, you can probably guess the result, neither one was spared the barbs and the harder they fought to separate from each other the tighter the wire became, until some brave farmers with wire cutters came and cut them free. I believe that Jesus has the wire cutters if you let him approach.

You may not believe what I do and that is okay, but I ask you to consider, whether it is Jesus with the wire cutters or you, shouldn’t you start clearing out the barbed wire? Are there people in your life that you have let grow far from you, who may have hurt you or you- them, that you should reconcile with? Forgiveness doesn’t mean you put yourself in harm’s way and it doesn’t have to be accomplished all in one day. Sometimes we have to start removing the battlements one brick at a time. Sometimes we have to approach gingerly at first, like the farmers trying to free the bucks.

What does that look like? Well, I’ve used several techniques. Sometimes it is a simple text or sharing a funny meme. Sometimes it is a paper letter or card, delivered through the mail, to keep the back and forth of the bucks’ thrashing horns at bay until God can get close enough with the clippers. Sometimes it is calling the person on the phone.

Whatever it is take a step. Do your scan and pick one fortress and take down one brick. I want you to soar and I know that you can’t do it any more than those bucks can, while you are tangled in the barbed wire of your grievances with one another.

Do one small thing today to build the bridge, light the match that sets the battlements you have built between you and others on fire, and soar!


The Struggle is Real…Sometimes…

I am a restless person.  You might even call me “Restless by Nature.” That is not quite as cool as “Naughty By Nature” but I am anything but cool.  This restlessness is all too big a part of being human.  We struggle from the moment we emerge from the womb.  If you believe Maslow’s hierarchy (or pyramid) to a be an accurate depiction of that struggle we start by struggling for basic needs.  We cry out for air, shelter, food and the security of having our basic physical needs met. Then we yearn to be safe.  We want to know we have enough.  “Mom are we going to be able to pay the electric bill, or do I need to pawn my Atari?” Right after that, we want our belongingness needs to be met. We want to know we have a friend, we want to feel we are loved and that we belong. When all these needs are met we start to stress and strain for recognition and for our self-esteem to be bolstered. Finally, if we can make it past all of those hurdles and climb the pyramid, we struggle with being all we were created to be.  We strive to be our full and complete self.

In a perfect and unbroken world, we climb the pyramid, stumbling along the way and look down from the top and admire the lessons learned along the journey.  We don’t live in that world, do we? What happens if we get stuck? A few people probably come within reach of achieving this lofty objective.  For most of us, this may look very different.  It may be less of a linear climb up the pyramid and more of a slipping and sliding, up and down journey. Many of us bounce through these stages and slip and strive our way through life. The key to this kind of climb is that your eyes stay set on moving up.

What happens when someone is less focused on moving up and out of these levels and more addicted to the back and forth struggle of moving between them? 

    Do you know someone or are you one of those people who seem overly attached to the strain and pain of falling down and the joy of going back up?
  • Do you or your friend seem to “self-destruct” every time it feels like your making progress up the pyramid?

I used to really resonate with this.  Not only did I know many people who seemed to relish in staying in the struggle, but I was one of them.  I would create drama when there was no drama needed.  I would manufacture discord out of peace.  I was addicted to the pain and the struggle and my story of overcoming the struggle.  The truth is, I still slip into this mode occasionally, but overall, I live a much different life now.

The irony of this is that the whole time I was addicted to that pain, I would cast dispersions on those who did not seem to be struggling or who appeared to have peace.  These people who I felt were looking down on me from somewhere higher up on the pyramid all had it too easy in my mind.  Their lives were not the painful struggle mine was.  They did not have to pawn their Atari. They had everything given to them in a soft, cushy life I could never imagine. They did not know my pain.  What I later learned was…

I was full of a big ole pyramid size pile of crap!adamsgoodoledays

Everyone struggles.  Everyone hurts and everyone looks for these needs to be met.  There is not one person who has the market cornered on pain, we just all process it and show it in different ways.  Sometimes people don’t even realize how empty their lives are and may appear cocky or appear to have all the material and superficial things you don’t, but they are still hurting and broken on some level.  But this post is not about them. 

This post is about you and me and the people we know who are addicted to the struggle and in love with our own story of struggle.

I am not convinced that this whole process was discovered first by Maslow.  I actually believe Jesus had this figured out way before him.  You can agree or disagree, but he seemed to know that people wanted to be fed, loved and achieve a peace beyond their own understanding way before the first psychologist’s couch ever got its cushions.  What he taught people, people who knew much greater struggles than we know in our first world, modern lives, was that they needed two things to achieve the top of the pyramid- God and each other.  Just two things.

Whether or not you follow Jesus, you may agree that the reason this is so profound is that the reality of our existence is that we are never satisfied and we are never done struggling. 

The key is how we orient ourselves during that struggle.  If we orient ourselves to serve something greater than ourselves and live for each other, something magical happens to our addiction to struggle.  All of a sudden, our story doesn’t take center stage.  Our struggle no longer has the spotlight on it.  Instead, how we fit into the bigger story and how we can help other people tell their part of the story more successfully, takes center stage. 

When we let go of our addiction to struggle and pain and the drama that comes with that, the remarkable thing is we receive a gift.  The gift of peace. 

We get the gift of freedom from the chains of endless struggle.  That is what the top of the pyramid looks like.  We can sit there, on top, still broken, a bit tired, but full of love and unchained…at last free of the need to struggle-endlessly.

Love you guys, J




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