Some of my fondest memories growing up in the late 70s was when my daddy took on the role of “human jukebox.” We didn’t call it that back then, but that’s what he did. We’d all sit around the turntable as he’d carefully slip away the album cover and then cajole the album from its sleeve. There in his deep, olive hands would gleam black, shiny vinyl. Daddy would ever so gently place the album onto the turntable and guide the arm to the exact spot that would play his song of choice. As the song wound down, he’d reverse the process and then start over with the next song on his “playlist.” We’d do this for hours.
My daddy would play everything from Ferrante and Teicher to Pink Floyd to Marty Robbins to Cat Stevens to Johnny Cash to Black Sabbath to John Denver to Peter, Paul, and Mary and everything in between. If you know me personally, this last sentence should explain a whole lot about me. Part of the “in between” was Simon & Garfunkel. Bridge Over Troubled Water was a perennial favorite on my daddy’s ever-evolving playlist.
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Simon & Garfunkel
If you are from my neck of the woods, you are familiar with the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge. As part of the Hurricane Evacuation system, it is its own sort of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” At 24 miles long, the Causeway is the world’s longest continuous bridge over a body of water. Its foundation is on 9,500-plus pilings. Retaining walls on both spans of the bridge guard the more than 43,000 travelers who cross the span each day.
If you are one of those commuters, you are literally in-between where you are and where you are headed. Last week, “Half-Way Home” spoke to making earthly connections in order to make the most of this earthly journey. There’s an even more important connection that is essential to living in-between where we are and where we are headed – the Spiritual connection.
The most common thing that people say to me when they learn of Brooke’s accident is “I can’t even imagine ….” And, invariably their voices trail off where you see the ellipses. The second thing I hear a lot is some variation of their perception of my strength. You are so strong. I don’t know how you do it. I could never…. Again voice trailing off.
Whatever your “I-can’t-even-imagine” situation, there’s only one Bridge for crossing troubled waters. Trying to cross troubled waters on our own is like taking the ferry. We are still on the water. We are no match for the waves and wind that toss us about and throw us off keel. We risk capsize.
The Bridge raises us above the waves. Even if you have to slow down the pace and “white knuckle” it across the Bridge, you are not on the water being tossed about. You have a firm foundation of over 9,500 pilings holding you up. Even when you can’t see how deeply the pilings are driven into the bed of the lake – they’re there.
If you have ever seen pilings being driven, you know that it is a slow and steady process. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Building a foundation of faith is the same way. Even if you come to faith in the burst of an amazing conversion like Saul of Tarsus, you spend the rest of your life building. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. If you are more like me than Saul a.k.a. the Apostle Paul, you build it up and then you kick it down and He builds it up and you kick it down and He builds it up again.
That thing that people mistake for strength in me is God’s Grace.
Each time I’ve kicked away at the foundation of my own faith, God is there picking up the rubble. Each time I’ve kicked away at the foundation of my own faith, He builds it back a littler sturdier – a little harder to knock completely away. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. No matter how many
change orders complete renovations I throw at God, His grace brings me through. He takes my part “when darkness comes and pain is all around.”
On March 16, 2017, I couldn’t see the pilings, but retaining wall was there to keep me reined in. “Troubled waters” is another way of saying “lies.” In the midst of chaos, lies swirl. Why would God do this? What did I do to deserve this? The retaining walls are the boundaries of truth. God is good. God is trustworthy. God is just. God always acts in accord with His character -even when we can’t find our footing. These truths keep us from careening over the edge into the waters.
When someone says to me “I can’t even imagine …,” the rest of that sentence is “…doing this without faith.” (Fill-in whatever your “this” is.) My heart truly hurts for those I see struggling through whatever their this is – without faith. There is no comfort in relying on self. I don’t say that in trite way. I’ve taken the ferry. Hell, I could teach a course in “Ferry Piloting.” You navigate blind. Everyone is seasick. The keel doesn’t work. The engine always fails just when you think you can see the shore.
On one day in March 2017, we made two round trips across the Causeway. For 48 of those miles, my view was a blanket of pink and white peonies peeking out the back window of a black hearse.
It’s days like that that can drive you over the edge.
It’s days like that when knowing the Truth is the only thing to stop you.