One fine fall day, in my ever-so-zig-zag wanderings, I came to a bridge.
It was one of those ancient bridges with wooden slats that you can see through. The supports were leaning, and some of the boards were broken and rotten. Vines were growing up here and there, and weeds were out of control. To say this bridge had not been maintained would be a gross understatement.
I wondered whether anyone ever ventured to cross to the other side. From all appearances, it was not well traveled; in fact, it seemed to have been forgotten altogether. Why had it fallen into disuse?
As I was pondering whether to attempt to cross over this shaky structure spanning the deep gorge below it, a fellow traveler appeared (as luck would have it). He was hunting, and he was dressed in some sort of camo pattern that I had never seen before. Perhaps he knew the story of the pitiful bridge.
Before I could ask him about it, he was off to the other side, where he disappeared into the woods. However, he soon traipsed back to my side, happy and carefree, without even looking down! What a brave soul!
When he returned, he stopped beside me and pulled out a couple of bottles of water and offered me one. He sat down to rest on a big rock, so I decided to ask him about the bridge.
“Oh,” he said, “you obviously don’t know about the troll.”
“Oh, yes, there’s always a troll, you know, to guard the bridge and try to keep folks from crossing over. He’s kept most people from setting foot on Reconciliation Bridge.”
“How? Does he have weapons?”
The hunter laughed and said, “Well, you might call them weapons, I suppose. He just has a list of reasons they should not cross. He tells them, ‘You have no reason to apologize. You have not done anything wrong. In fact, YOU are the one who deserves an apology. But if you go ahead anyway, the apology will not be returned; then you will be angry and hurt. You might even be rejected or ignored. Or made to feel foolish. Or small. Or the other person will act as if YOU were the only one in the wrong and accept the apology as if it were actually deserved! Surely you realize that trying to make amends with some people is just plain futile.’ When he pulls out this list and reads it to people, they usually turn back. That’s all he has to do to guard Reconciliation Bridge from unwanted foot traffic.”
“Does he have a name?” I asked.
“Oh, yes. He is well known in these parts. His name is Pride. I have to tell you that a few folks who feel bad if they are at odds with others try to take another route, thus avoiding this bridge. See that ridge up there? That’s called The High Road. But the thing is, Pride just watches them with a grin on his face. He knows he has still won.”
“Why is that? I have always heard that taking The High Road is honorable.” I was confused.
“Because . . . Pride knows it is a dead end. The destination will probably not be reached,” he patiently explained.
“Then why do people go there?”
“By taking The High Road, they can feel better. They can tell themselves and others, ‘See there . . . I tried . . . and it got me nowhere.’ Taking that route makes them appear to be ‘the bigger person,’ so . . . do you see what I mean? Even that satisfies Pride.”
“Okay, I see, but I still don’t understand one thing: How did you walk across so easily? You didn’t even hesitate. What’s the secret?” (I wanted to know, just in case I might need to cross someday. Not today . . . but one day . . . maybe.)
“Well, I don’t know whether you noticed my attire. It’s a special design of camo. It allows me to sneak across unnoticed by the troll. He doesn’t even know I am present when I am dressed in it. I always put it on when I have fences to mend on the other side.”
“Oh, I might need to get some of that. What is it called?” I asked.
“Humility,” he said.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ ” (I Peter 5:5).