Taong Tulay – In Filipino culture, a taong tulay (literally, a human bridge) is one who facilitates the courtship of a couple. This used to be very popular among young men and women, especially when the person being courted is not a friend of the one who would like to court. The taong tulay is usually a common friend. Complications arise when the taong tulay tries to usurp the place of the one who courts.
We’ve all heard or watched stories featuring the taong tulay. Most of the time, the taong tulay gets audience sympathy when he or she is hopelessly in unrequited love with one of the parties involved. But, for those who have put the desires of the couple above their own, there is great joy in celebrating the love between them. Take the story of our friend, John.
An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” -John 3:25-30
John understood that his sole role was to introduce the world to Christ. He never sought to usurp the bridegroom’s place. Certainly he sacrificed a lot in life. He wore camel’s hair (not the smooth, expensive camel hide used in modern coats, but based on Matthew 11:8, it must have been the rough, unprocessed kind). He was a Nazirite, which means he was hairy (and itchy, most probably) and he never drank wine (which was the ultimate hedonistic drink for the Jews, over which the special Hagafen blessing is pronounced by the rabbis). He was also on a special diet of locust and honey (honey-dipped grasshoppers, anyone?).
As someone whose role is likewise to introduce others to Christ, how can we complain? John fully understood both the bad news and the good news of being Christ’s messenger. We should too.
The bad news is, we can’t take credit for the changed lives of those we lead.
Yes, we invest our life, our time, our heart, our mind, our finances just to see one person’s life transformed as he or she gets to know Christ. But the reality is, it is simply a privilege for us to be part of this person’s life. It is God who works in their hearts. We simply plant or water, but it is He who makes the seed grow (1Corinthians 3:6). We lay the foundations, we share the Word, we encourage them to read the Bible and seek God, we model a life in Christ. That’s it. We should not usurp the role of the Lover by allowing the people we lead to be dependent on us or take the spotlight away from the Protagonist by claiming that we played a bigger role in the person’s life than we really have.
So yes, despite the hard work and the dedication, the ultimate credit of a changed life does not go to us. It is tempting to let the people recognize our role in a person’s life, especially when they turn out to become an even better leader than we imagined. But because it is God alone who can transform, He alone gets the glory.
On the other hand, have you ever felt the frustration and the stress of seeing someone you lead make foolish mistakes despite your warnings and admonitions?
On the upside, the good news is, we are not responsible for the bad choices of those we lead.
If you have taught the person you lead to seek God and be responsible for the growth in their relationship with Christ, then it is not your burden to soften hard hearts and stubborn heads. Any mess they make out of their own choice is not your fault and it does not reflect back on you as a leader. So, let’s stop lamenting over those who close their ears and turn away. Our role is to point the person on the right path to Christ through our words and our life. We have to trust the Holy Spirit to do His job of transformation.
Our taong tulay role is to facilitate a relationship between the Lover and the pursued. Our joy is in seeing the wedding take place. Let’s just be sure we are not a hindrance to the relationship.
So, how are you as a taong tulay?