Today marks the one year anniversary of a dear friend’s passing. It’s also the start of a period of about three months where a few other friends will be remembering and honouring their loved ones who have died in the last two years. I’ve been thinking about their grief and their journeys, and I’ve been thinking also of others who may not be entering this new year with a good bounce in their step. We’re supposed to you know – we’re supposed to make plans and goals and for those of us especially in the Southern Hemisphere who have our major summer holidays at this time of the year, we’re supposed to spend this time getting refreshed and re-energized and re-focused for the coming year. But for some, this is easier said than done. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about.
We like bridges. My family, we like bridges. We like driving on bridges that are new to us. We like different structures and noticing different materials that have been used in their construction. Spend any amount of time in the Portland, Oregon and you’ll love the bridges there. There’s a bridge that takes you from Oregon into Washington State – the border line is drawn through the Columbia River. That bridge is also a drawbridge so that gains triple points for interest sake.
Bridges are an engineering field all in themselves. I married into a brainy family. We’ve got doctors and engineers in our fold and one of our engineers is a bridge engineer. She’d love all the bridges we got to see in our time in the States.
The longest bridge in New Zealand is in Canterbury. It leads State Highway One over the Rakaia River and it goes for 1,756 metres. We used to drive that stretch of road all the time when we lived in Christchurch and always, always, we’d try to hold our breaths for the duration of the bridge. It’s just one of those things that a lot of people do. Similar to honking your horn when you’re driving in the Lyttleton Tunnel. No-one knows why you do these things or who first started it, but you join in, because it’s a ‘thing’.
So when I think of bridges, sometimes I think of holding my breath. And sometimes this is a conscious thing and sometimes an involuntary thing.
I know of plenty of people at the moment who are travelling on their own bridges at the moment. Bridges of grief. Bridges of ‘interesting’ journeys. Bridges that are nagivating them along paths of uncertainty. And for some of these people breathing does not come easy.
You see some people think of grief as a tunnel, something dark with light at the end of it. The promise of hope, beckoning. And yes, it may well be a tunnel for some. But for some, this grief journey, this dealing with the things that life chucks at us, is more of a bridge. Bridges make terrain than is uncross-able, cross-able. Bridges lead us on. They open up the path before us. Bridges don’t hide us from the outside world – from everything else that is going on, like tunnels do. My friend who is a new widower, knows all too well, that just because he’s adjusting to a new normal, and that’s tough in itself, but that also doesn’t make him immune to all of life’s other struggles – he still has to manage the normal yuck and ick of life. But. He’s on a bridge. There’s forward momentum. He’s progressing.
Bridges are designed to withstand incredible weights, incredible loads. You haven’t seen road freight until you’ve seen trucks in action in the States. Websites like Amazon can promise things like next day delivery when you’ve got the billions of trucks working like they do, moving more than 10.4 billion tons of freight a year. So we know that bridges on major roads can carry amazing weights. And I wonder if we sometimes underestimate what we can carry ourselves? The human soul is amazingly resilient and most of the time we just don’t know how much we are capable of carrying, until we are under that weight, until we are having to bear those burdens. You may be on a bridge in your own life right now, and you’re most likely feeling incredibly weak and inadequate and overwhelmed – but- I know this – you are stronger than you feel. Your ‘bridge’ is stronger than you think.
How do I know how strong your bridge is? Bridges have designers, they have engineers, we also have a designer in charge of the construction of the bridges in our lives. God didn’t put the pain in our lives. God didn’t make a chain of events happen so that the end result is you’re absolutely petrified about the start of a new year because you’re not sure what it is going to bring or how things are possibly going to be different, no, things are not as they possibly are in your life because of what God has done, this I know. He is there with you now, providing you with a bridge. A way through. A way on. The promise of Hope. When we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us. He promises to be with us. His rod and his staff protecting us. That’s the promise of a bridge. We can place great reliance on the strength of what we’re walking on – on how we’re walking through whatever we’ve walking through, because in Him we are made strong.
You’ll notice that there are some bridges that are single lane bridges – or one way. I kinda think that’s what life is like with some of the things we have to walk through. We can have companions alongside us, for a stage or two, up to a point, and then there’s a time when actually, the paths have to be driven solo, or walked single-file. Sometimes this happens involuntarily – sometimes people can’t offer the help you may need – or they don’t know the need is there. Sometimes there’s only so much that others can do to lend their support. Your bridge must simply be walked solo. But your bridge is still a bridge – a structure to get from point A to point B, and your walk is surely supported best by the one who knows you best, your loving Father. He’s there. He’s by your side, he’s calling you forward.
Some bridges can be very long. Very long. And when you begin them, you can’t always see the end point. But you know what? The end point is there….it is just as secure and safe as the starting point. Just remember to breathe. You can’t hold your breath for every bridge you go on. You’ve got this.