bridge lessons

I left home as dawn was breaking. The sun rose brilliantly on the river as I crossed to catch my flight. I grabbed my phone to capture the shot. Normally I give all my attention to this bridge. It is broad and high, stretching and bending over waters deepened for international shipping. Salties and lakers laden with cargo routinely pass beneath. The current is strong and, even in summer, this river runs cold. In winter it is frozen solid. Under the best conditions, the surface of the bridge seems slippery under the tires; the vehicle shimmies unnervingly.

Under the worst conditions, navigating this bridge is a hair-raising, faith-testing ordeal. Returning home as a mid-January storm system settled in, I drove cautiously through a city blanketed in snow, roadways thick with slush. By the time I hit the highway, freezing rain was pelting my windshield. Even that was nearly barren, so late was the hour and severe the storm. Weather predictions made traveling the next day only more unlikely so I persevered, slowly, prayerfully, counting the miles and hoping for a break as I drove south. It was a dark and desolate journey.

And that is how I found myself all alone at 1:30 in the morning traversing suspended steel under great duress. The surface was slick, quick-frozen condensation under the tires. Icicles hung, longer than my hand, from every rail. Unfortunately, conditions were not obvious until I was part way across. There was no turning back. I prayed, loudly, then louder, with as much conviction as I could muster, as the car slid back and forth, up and then down the incline.

I have never been so glad for icy pavement as when I slid off steel slats and onto blacktop that morning. The U.S. customs and immigration agent looked at me incredulously, no doubt questioning my sanity as he inquired about my citizenship. I was equally baffled to learn the bridge does not close due to weather conditions. Buyer beware: heart-stopping, take-life-in-your-own-hands thrills in exchange for $2.75 toll.

In the months that followed, I used the bridge numerous times and shuddered in recalling that treacherous passage. But it was not for nothin’, that journey. Odds are pretty good that I’ve seen just about the worst that bridge has to bring. There is great comfort in that, as I’ve a lot of miles ahead of me yet. So I’ll chalk this one up to foolhardiness on my part and faithfulness on God’s part. And I remain thankful, so very thankful, that He sees me when I travel (Psalm 139:3).

But on this mid-May morning, temps were a comforting thirty degrees above freezing when the sunrise beckoned from the bridge. I laughed when I snapped that pic. First at myself — who photographs while driving alone across a bridge? Not a scaredy-cat! Then I laughed at the bridge — I’m back. Take that! And I laughed again, with joy for a day still brand-new and unblemished. And for faith, affirmed on the wings of the morning.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
… You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head
I can never escape from your Spirit!
… I can never get away from your presence!
… If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
… To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
(Psalm 139)

~René Morley

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