a suspension bridge, of sorts.

February 10, 2010

many years ago my family took a trip to canada, and although memories from much of that vacation have faded away, my memory of our stop at the capilano suspension bridge remains vivid. the capilano suspension bridge, hailed as one of british columbia’s most “naturally thrilling” sites, was built in 1889 and suspends 230 feet above the capilano river and stretches 450 feet long. i wasn’t thrilled at the sight of it, i mean, sure, the river was beautiful [and frightful and huge] and the scenery was lush, but the bridge itself did nothing for me. i’m quite certain if it hadn’t been for my pride, i would have gladly found something else to occupy my time. but there i was with my younger brother who was apparently not bothered by the “built in 1889” signage, trying my best to be brave. the moment we stepped out onto the suspending path my legs seemed to liquefy, at least to the consistency of jell-o, and my heart repositioned itself into my throat.  as i  grasped the handrail my knuckles seemed to glow, my skin becoming more white than i had previously thought possible. slowly i put one foot in front of the other, staring at the tops of my shoes, trying to ignore the raging river below. suddenly someone behind me would step onto the bridge, sending the suspended masterpiece into a wobbly motion completely outside my comfort zone.  looking up, at the land 440 feet away, i wondered why it was any better than the land i had left 10 feet behind me.  insisting that it was worth the trip, my father patiently encouraged me to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

the life of an INN staff member is often measured by the comings and goings of tusdays. 306 tuesdays behind me, 16 remaining ahead of me, i am reminded of the capilano suspension bridge in vancouver, b.c. it seems i find myself on a proverbial bridge, suspended high above a raging river and wobbling outside my comfort zone. as i look back to the solid ground i once stood upon i see a land thick with beautiful, colorful vegetation,  a place of wonderment and sweet smells, a territory where growth and life abound, a land spotted with thorny branches but also filled with trees that beckon you to climb and play, and i see a place with familiar paths leading to known spots of comfort or excitement. when i turn around and see where it is that i’m walking from my heart aches deeply with gratefulness, gratefulness for the moments, hours, years i was blessed to roam in that rich and abundant land. years of walking alongside students in life, listening and sharing along the way. years of studying the story of God in hope that i will be able to share that story in meaningful ways. years of trusting that God speaks when i feel at a loss for words. years of planning and taking care of seemingly trivial tasks to create opportunities for others to experience something life-changing…to experience God. years of standing back and watching students engage with one another and engage with the world around them. years of shared life with other staff people, hoping together for great things for Western’s campus. years of missing out on other things – like birthday parties for friends or really knowing my peers. hours of plane rides shared with students. hours of staff meetings spent creating a safe place for questions and doubts and hopes and fears to be spoken and shared. hours of asking questions over a cup of coffee. hours of shutting up and listening over a cup of coffee. hours of sitting, in that beautiful sanctuary, and listening to voices offering music to God. and moments, there have been so many moments i’m grateful for. moments of sitting and praying with the brokenhearted. moments of listening to someone share their story for the first time. moments of knowing God’s spirit was with me. moments of watching students see God on the streets of atlanta. moments filled with God’s grace as i search for words to speak. moments of embrace. moments of connection. moments with people that never leave the memory. i am so grateful for the years, hours, and moments i was blessed to roam that land.

and my heart grieves for it as i continue to step further from it on this wobbly, wiggly, frightening bridge.  i grieve because i chose to step away from it. i grieve because i’m on the bridge, making my way to somewhere new. i grieve because with each step, each scary and unsteady step, i become more aware of just what i’m farther from.

i strain to look forward, at the land lying 16 tuesdays away, but i can’t see much. my eyes can’t adjust and it all seems blurry. i have ideas of what this new land may be like, but they are only conceptual guesses, at best. i have hopes of what i may find there, but they are quite honestly overshadowed by the fears i also possess. i am worried that this new land will be filled with vines that strangle, thorns that pierce, and creatures that kill. i fear this new place will be empty, void of color and wonder. i hope the other side of this bridge isn’t lonely but i’m terrified it might be.  as i look up, towards this land lying 16 tuesdays away, i can’t help but wonder what about it is any better for me than the land i’ve just stepped away from. and yet i sense a Spirit, within and around me, patiently encouraging me to put one foot in front of the other – insisting that it’s worth the trip.

right now i’m just on the bridge. suspended high above a frightening reality. concerned about the wobbling, nervous about the swaying. my liquefied legs and out-of-place heart are creating discomfort. the choice i’ve made to be on this bridge annoys me. i’m afraid i might fall before i get to the other side, so i’m holding on with all my might, and my knuckles are glowing.

i know i’ll make it to the other side. i know i’ll walk into that new land. i know there will be moments i stare back across the bridge and mourn the land i used to roam. i know that eventually, this new place will become familiar. i know that soon, as i discover myself in this new land, it will become beautiful and rich, i know i will find growth and life. i know crossing the bridge is worth the trip.

but right now, i’m just on the bridge.

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