The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. – Marcus Aurelius
I celebrate a world that is not just black and white. There are amazing shades of grey layered in between. And when I look all the way into my soul, I see breathtaking colors of red, green and blue as if they were mixed from a painter’s palette. It is me, though, holding the palette and applying the brushstrokes.
Autumn is my favorite time to celebrate living in a world full of color. The bright color of leaves hanging from tree limbs reminds me how glorious life can be when we take the time to recognize the beauty of change. Our world offers this spectacular show of color so we can’t miss the importance change can have in our lives.
When the leaves begin to turn from green to red, is a cue to look deep at what we need to change. Change allows us to redefine and reinvent ourselves. When we are open to change, we are given the opportunity to see things differently and to do things differently. Change allows us to experience renewal later.
The time between when we begin to feel the need for change and until the time we are ready to share our growth with the world may be cold and harsh. But our faith tells us that everything does have a season. Our bright colors that once announced our desire to change may soon fade when the reality of what we have to do in order to experience that change is understood.
The following story conveys how important it is to recognize the need for change when the lesson is presented to us.
There was a man who had given much thought to what he wanted from life. He had experienced many setbacks and trials. He had experimented with different ways of living, and he had his share of both success and failure. At last, he began to see clearly where he wanted to go.
Diligently, he searched for the right opportunity. Sometimes he came close, only to be pushed away. Often he applied his strength and imagination only to find the path hopelessly blocked. And then it came to him. But the opportunity would not wait. If it were perceived that he was not committed, the opportunity would not come again.
Eager to arrive, he started his journey. With each step, he wanted to move faster; with each thought about his goal, his heart beat quicker; with each vision of what lay ahead, he found renewed vigor. Strength that had left him long ago had now returned, and desires, all kinds of desires, awakened from their long-dormant positions.
Hurrying along, he came upon a bridge that crossed through the middle of a town. It has been built high above a river to protect it from the floods of the melting winter snow.
He started across. Then he noticed someone coming from the opposite direction. As they moved closer, it seemed as though the other person was coming to greet him. He could see clearly, however, that he did not know this person, who was dressed similarly except for something tied around his waist.
When they were within speaking distance, he could see that what the other had around his waist was a rope. It was wrapped around him many times and probably, if extended, would reach 30 feet.
The other began to uncurl the rope. Just as they were coming close to one another, the stranger said, “Pardon me, would you be so kind to hold the end of my rope for a moment.”?
Surprised by this politely phrased, but curious request, he agreed, reached out and took it.
“Thank you,” said the other, who handed it over, “two hands now, and remember, hold tight.” Then, the other jumped off the bridge.
Quickly, the free-falling body plunged the distance of the rope’s length, and from the bridge the man felt the pull. Instinctively, he held tight and was almost pulled over the side. He managed to brace himself against the edge, however, and after catching his breath, looked down at the other dangling, close to oblivion.
“What are you trying to do?” he yelled.
“Just hold tight,” said the other.
“This is ridiculous,” the man thought and began trying to haul up the other to the top of the bridge. He could not get the leverage, however. It was as though the weight of the other person and the length of the rope had been carefully calculated in advance so that together they created the perfect counterweight just beyond his strength to bring the other to safety.
“Why did you do this?” the man called out.
“Remember,” said the other, “if you let go, I will be lost.”
“But I can’t pull you up,” the man cried.
“I am your responsibility,” said the other.
“Well, I didn’t ask for it,” the man replied.
“If you let go, I will be lost,” repeated the other.
He began to look around for help. But there was no one. How long would he have to wait? Why did this have to happen now, just as he was on the verge of success? He examined the side of the bridge, searching for a place to tie the rope, some protrusion, perhaps, or maybe a hole in one of the boards. But the railing was unusually uniform in shape and there were no spaces between the boards. There was no way to get rid of this newfound burden, even temporarily.
“What do you want?” he asked the other hanging below.
“Just your help,” the other answered.
“How can I help? I cannot pull you in, and there is no place to tie the rope so I can go and find someone to help me help you.”
“I know that. Just hang on; that will be enough. Tie the rope around your waist; it will be easier.”
Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied the rope around his waist.
“Why did you do this,” he asked again. “Don’t you see what you have done? What possible purpose could you have in mind?”
“Just remember,” said the other, “my life is in your hands.”
What should he do? “If I let go, all my life I will know that I let this other die. If I stay, I risk losing my momentum toward my dream. Either way, it will haunt me forever.” With ironic humor he thought about dying himself by jumping off the bridge, too. “That would teach this fool.” But he wanted to live and live life fully. “What a choice I have to make,” he said to himself.
A thought occurred to him. While he could not pull up the other solely by his own efforts, if the other would shorten the rope from his end by curling it around his waist over and over, together they could do it. Actually the other could do it by himself, so long as he, standing on the bridge, kept it still and steady.
“Now listen,” he shouted down. “I think I know how to save you.” He explained his plan.
But the other wasn’t interested.
“You mean you won’t help? But I told you I can’t pull you up myself, and I don’t think I can hang on much longer either.”
“You must try,” the other shouted back in tears. “If you fail, I will die.”
The point of decision arrived. What should he do? “My life or his?” And then a new idea, A revelation. So new, in fact, it seemed sacrilegious, so alien to his traditional way of thinking.
“I want you to listen carefully,” he said, “because I mean what I’m about to say. I will not accept the position of choice for your life, only for my own; the position of choice for your own life I hereby give back to you.”
“What do you mean?” the other said, afraid.
“I mean, simply, it’s up to you. You decide which way this ends. I will become the counterweight. You do the pulling and bring yourself up. I will even tug a little from here.” He began unwinding the rope from around his waist and braced himself against the side of the bridge.
“You cannot mean what you say,” the other shrieked. “You would not be so selfish. I am your responsibility. What could be so important that you let someone die? Do not do this to me.”
He waited a moment. There was no change in the tension of the rope.
“I accept your choice,” he said, and freed his hands.
Sometimes to effect change in our lives we need to be willing to let go of what’s holding us back. While the story of The Bridge (from Edwin H. Friedman’s: Friedman’s Fables; copyright (C) 1990 by Guilford Publications) is overly dramatic, it does serve as a good reminder that, except for our children, we aren’t responsible for anyone but ourselves.
This doesn’t mean we ignore our commitments to others, or turn away from the hungry – it just means if someone is unwilling to pull themselves out of their problems, even though they have a choice to do so, it’s not our responsibility to do so either. Waiting for the person can keep us from going where we want to go. Waiting can keep us from change.
It’s autumn in Kansas now – a time to take an inventory and see what changes I am willing to make. I learning to let go of what’s holding me back and beginning to understand a little better that if I want to get to where I want to go , then I have make some difficult decisions, too.
I can’t continue to be all things to all people; especially if these people really don’t want anything for themselves. I am beginning to find the confidence to take that first step out of my comfort zone and engage in the difficult conversations; the uncomfortable situations. I beginning to find the courage to let go of the rope and walk away.
As I walk to a place I can call my own, my hope is I will continue to notice the beautiful colors that fill the world no matter how dark and harsh some days may feel. To bring the color back, I will dab my finger into my palette and add color to my world with change.
I enjoy reading several blogs every day. The following ones do a wonderful job with helping me see the value and purpose of change. I hope you enjoy them, too: