Crossing the Bridge: How one creative faces his fears

An musician's perspective on conquering fear in the midst of uncertainty

I hope this is a safe place to share something personal.

By personal, I mean a deep-rooted condition I’ve had since childhood. So please be gentle and non-judgmental. Promise?

OK, here goes.

I suffer from gephyrophobia.

If you have no idea what that word means (or how it’s pronounced), that’s OK. I didn’t either. But thanks to Google, I know now that it means “fear of bridges.”

You see, as a child I had a disturbing nightmare about being in a car that fell off of a bridge that collapsed, or perhaps wasn’t completed yet. The memory is vivid enough that even as a middle-aged adult, I still have to take a deep breath and steel myself when crossing over a long span of ocean or a very high overpass. There is something about being in the middle of the air or above the ocean, with nothing but my trust in the bridge’s integrity holding me up, that still stirs a deep anxiety within me.

Considering how long I’ve had this phobia, it’s probably not surprising that I face a similar issue as a musician. The bridge in most pop and jazz songs is a portion of the music that veers away from the original theme. It’s often in a new key, uses different progressions, or develops in a different manner than the main verse or chorus. Because of this, it’s often this section of the song that I struggle to remember or play correctly. It seems even in music, I’m not comfortable when I’m in the middle of the bridge.

Perhaps this aversion to bridges is unique to me and a few other people, but the fear of being in the middle is pretty common. It’s easy for all of us to start something familiar, and it’s very comforting to be near the end. In both cases, we can see the end points. We know where we are when we start, and if we are near the finish line, we can see where we’re headed.

The bridge, however, represents moments when things aren’t so certain. We’re in unfamiliar territory. We’re depending on something underneath us that we can’t see or touch. In fact, the only thing keeping us from a horrific collapse is the assumption that whomever built the bridge knew what they were doing.

That’s why faith is so important for the creative. If you’re in the middle of a recording project, the middle of a new piece, the middle of a career, it can feel like there’s nothing holding you up. You can’t quite see where you started, but you also can’t see the end yet. You have to trust the one that built the bridge.

Philipians 1:6 (NIV) – Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

If you’re a creative that trusts in the Creator, you can be sure that the bridge he built for you is secure. He knows the place your career is headed toward, the people you need to connect with, and the process you’ll need to persevere in.

I’m still going to say a little prayer every time I cross a bridge, or play through the changes of a tricky passage. But I’m also going to cross with confidence.

Thanks to the Master Architect, I can be sure that I’ll arrive safely on the other side.

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