Film Friday: A Bridge Too Far/Hacksaw Ridge

There is a shocking scene in A Bridge Too Far where Major Cook leads his men across the Waal river in flimsy boats under fire from the enemy on the far shore. They are attempting to take the bridge at Nijmagen under great duress. It’s a chilling scene, akin perhaps to the men in the first world war going over the top of the trenches directly into the line of fire. Here is the scene…

YouTube video

As they row the Major starts to pray, ‘Hail Mary full of grace…’ over and over and over. A cry for help as they battle with all their might to reach the far side. I read an old proverb recently, ‘Pray to God but row to shore.’ Pete Greig quotes it in one of his books. He is talking about prayer and action. The two going hand in hand. Which puts me in mind of another scene, this one from another true war story. Hacksaw Ridge. In this scene Desmond Doss, a medic, finds himself witnessing the killing and wounding of all the men in his company. He wonders what to do and cries out to God for help.

As Desmond carries man after man to the cliff edge, so he can lower them to safety, he keeps praying, ‘One more, help me get one more.’ He prays with all he’s got and he works with all he’s got. This is often the way in life. Prayer and action are not opposites, or contradictory. And our praying doesn’t need to be tidy or articulate or use a certain kind of language. Many of my prayers are ragged, and open-ended. Honesty and reality are the best guides. In the book of Esther in the Bible, Esther prays and fasts, and then throws not one but two feasts for the king, so she can find a way to tell him that her people are in grave danger. She uses her wits and courage and wisdom. And she prays. Jesus regularly took time out in the early morning to spend time with his father. Preparing himself for all the work he would do each day. We pray to God, and row for the shore. I’ll leave you with some words from great poem by a Lee Abbey friend Bill Colclough.

Don’t be afraid if you don’t understand
Don’t fear you won’t do it right
Don’t worry about performing
Just talk to me

Don’t need no words you can’t define
Don’t need a special voice you keep reserved just for me
Don’t even have to close your eyes
Just talk to me

Don’t need to wait until you’re hopeless
Don’t need a particular reason to call
Don’t need to fake your holiness
Just talk to me

Don’t worry that you don’t love me enough
Don’t need to do anything special
Don’t pretend you’re someone or something that you’re not
Just talk to me

by Bill Colclough

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  1. Glenys Richardson says:

    Hi Dave
    Found this Film Friday section profoundly moving- in fact it moved me to tears.
    Thank you

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