Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Worrying about trolls

Today, I am making a presentation for people I have never met but with whom I have had much conversation. I am in Albuquerque, 5000 feet up, asking my body and particularly my lungs to adjust to the altitude and the arid air. This is not familiar territory for me, and I am always surprised at how awkward and anxious I can be in new surroundings. I am a people person, used to speaking in crowds and teaching students, but here I am, in a new environment, and I can regress to a much younger self.

When out children we young we used spend spring and summer afternoons in a park that had several streams with little wooden bridges spanning the water. The water was never wide or deep, and we would hide under the bridge and be the trolls to their three billy goats - or whatever fairy and troll story they were reading at the time. They loved the mock fear of the game, the anxiety of getting caught, the play worry of not getting over, and worst of all getting eaten up. Screams of fake terror and joy filled the afternoons. And like those little girls of long ago, I too, like the challenge of crossing bridges where there might be trolls, where escape and success are not certain. But that also leads to some anxious moments, and real fear at times - and the desire to run back to somewhere safe and secure.

For today, I am reminded that the best in life often comes when I cross the bridges I so worried about. The trolls and failures were much more familiar and manageable than I anticipated, and I remember I am never really alone. All of us have to face some pretty threatening trolls - some familiar and some totally new. Sometimes it feels as if our life is at stake and no one told us how to answer correctly. So for today, I am going to try to imagine that those trolls are as scary as the trolls we pretended to be for our children. That every bridge I cross, no matter how terrifying, is still a bridge surrounded by family and laughter - even though I cannot see them right now.

Dear God,
help me to cross this bridge today,
with steady feet and a trusting heart.
I am not secure in my steps,
nor am I sure of the path ahead,
and darkness obscures the way forward.
Today I feel unsteady on my feet
tongue tied with no good answers,
and fully alone in each step I take.
Give me a trusting heart today
and let me see your face in the strangers
and even in the trolls who ask tough questions
and threaten my life.
Give me your strength today
and I will cross to the other side
head high and laughter on my lips
knowing I am never alone in you. Amen

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