The bridge of grace will bear your weight… ~Charles Spurgeon
Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open. Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who also was and is (our) God. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer from “Circular Letters in the Church Struggle”
Great gaps are being torn in families, kept separate in hospital ICUs and overflowing emergency rooms, where patients struggle for breath and fight for life – yet too sick, with too much risk for loved ones to be near.
Christ too knew separation from His Father, a chasm that appeared wholly unbridgeable- forsaken, suffering for His brothers and sisters by paying with His life a ransom we could never satisfy: we being so dead broke and captive to our sin.
His grace is the only bridge able to bear our weight, even now even now when our hearts break with uncertainty and fear.
We seek the comfort of a grace strong enough to fill our every hole bridge our every gap carry hope to our hopelessness and restore us wholly to our Father who was and is our God.
Lord, comfort us by spanning our troubled waters, bearing our weighty burdens, to make sure we get safely to the Other Side where Your arms await us.
This year’s Lenten theme for Barnstorming:
God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are. ~Tim Keller
Needing them still, I come when I can, this time to the sea where we share a room: their double bed, my single. Morning fog paints the pale scene even paler. Lace curtains breathing, the chenille spread folded back, my father’s feet white sails furled at the edge of blue pajamas. Every child’s dream, a parent in each hand, though this child is fifty. Their bodies fit easily, with room to spare. When did they grow so small? Grow so small— as if it were possible to swell backwards into an earlier self.
One more year, I ask the silence. Last night to launch myself into sleep I counted their breaths, the tidal rise and fall I now put my ear to, the coiled shell of their lives. ~Rebecca McClanahan from “Watching my Parents Sleeping Beside an Open Window Near the Sea” from Deep Light: New and Selected Poems.
My parents have been gone now for some time, my father over 25 years, my mother now over 10 years. Their dying was a long process of counted breaths and pauses. I witnessed their bodies curling into themselves, shrinking smaller, worn down by illness and age.
I still miss them, reminded of them by the events of my own life, still wanting them to take me by the hand as I navigate my own daily path.
After mom’s death, those possessions not distributed to family members have remained packed up and stored in our barn buildings. I know it is well past time to deal with their stuff as I become keenly aware of my own greying and aging.
Untouched in the bookshelf of our bedroom is a sealed box of over 500 letters written by my mother and father between 1941 and 1945. I know the letters began as they were getting to know each other at college, then going from “pinned” to “engaged” and continue for three and a half more years after a hurried wedding Christmas Eve 1942. By mid January 1943 my newly minted Marine officer father shipped out to spend the next three years of his life on the Pacific Ocean, fighting on the battlefields of Saipan, Tinian and Tarawa, not to return again to the states until late summer of 1945. My mother wrote her letters from a rural eastern Washington community, living in a “teachers’ cottage” with other war wives who taught school while waiting for their husbands to return home – or not.
It has taken me a decade to find the courage and time to devote to reading these letters they treasured and never threw away. Yesterday I sorted them unopened by postmark date into some semblance of order and sat down to start at the very beginning, which, of course, is my beginning as well. Only sixty letters in, I open each one with some trepidation and a lump in my throat about what I might find written there. I worry I may find things I don’t want to know. I hope I find things that I desperately need to know.
Most of all I want to understand the two people who became my parents within the coiled shell of their forty years together, though broken by a painful divorce which lasted a decade. Having lived through that awful time with them, I want to understand the origin of a love which mended their cracked shell, glueing them back together for five more years before my father died.
As I read their words over the next few weeks, I hope I too can cross a bridge back to them both.
Wait, for now. Distrust everything, if you have to. But trust the hours. Haven’t they carried you everywhere, up to now? Personal events will become interesting again. Hair will become interesting. Pain will become interesting. Buds that open out of season will become lovely again. Second-hand gloves will become lovely again, their memories are what give them the need for other hands. And the desolation of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness carved out of such tiny beings as we are asks to be filled; the need for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Wait. Don’t go too early. You’re tired. But everyone’s tired. But no one is tired enough. Only wait a while and listen. Music of hair, Music of pain, music of looms weaving all our loves again. Be there to hear it, it will be the only time, most of all to hear, the flute of your whole existence, rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion. ~Galway Kinnell “Wait”from A New Selected Poems
If everyone abandons you and even drives you away by force, then when you are left alone fall on the earth and kiss it, water it with your tears, and it will bring forth fruit even though no one has seen or heard you in your solitude. Believe to the end, even if all people went astray and you were left the only one faithful; bring your offering even then and praise God in your loneliness. ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky from The Brothers Karamazov
Suicide rates of teenagers in the United States have increased well over 30% since 2009. It is a national epidemic and tragedy.
Based on the anguish of the patients I see every day, one after another and another, over and over again I hear a too-easy contemplation of suicide, from “It would be easier if I were dead” or “no one cares if I live or die”, or “the world would be better off without me”, or “I’m not worthy to be here” to “that is my plan, it is my right and no one can stop me”.
Without us all pledging an oath to live life no matter what, willing to lay ourselves down for one another, to bridge the sorrow and lead the troubled to the light, there will be no slowing of this trend.
…when there is no loyalty to life, as stressful and messy as it can be, …when there is no honoring of the holiness of each created being as weak and frail and prone to helpless hopelessness as we are, …when there is no resistance to the buffeting winds of life~
please just wait a little longer, only a little longer: don’t go too early
Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness. ~Blaise Pascal
We yearn for perfection,
to be flawless and faultless,
aiming for symmetry,
straight and smooth.
Life serves up something
and our eye searches
for what is broken like us:
to find the cracks,
scratches and damage,
whether it is in
a master’s still life portrait
replete with crawling flying insects
and broken blossoms,
or in the not so still life
of those around us.
Somehow Christ bridges
Himself between God and us,
becoming a walkway for the wretched.
In the beginning we were created
image bearers of perfection.
We bear witness to brokenness
with our shattered lives,
fragile minds and weakening bodies.
It is our leaks and warts
that stand out now.
our lost relationship with Him,
Christ strikes the balance;
He hung broken to mend us,
to lift and carry us across the gap,
binding us to Him
The bridge of grace will bear your weight… ~Charles Spurgeon
All creatures are doing their best to help God in His birth of Himself.
Enough talk for the night. He is laboring in me;
I need to be silent for a while,
worlds are forming in my heart. ~Meister Eckhartfrom “Expands His Being”
What God would birth Himself into something as dark as this world?
Into this place of meanness, tribal conflicts and hatred?
This God would.
He labors in our dark hearts for good reason, becoming a bridge strong enough to bear us into the light and heal the cracks and fissures within. We are unformed and unready to meet Him, clinging as we do to our dark ways and thoughts, afraid to walk the plank as our weight of sin is so heavy, our need so great.
We are silenced as He prepares us, as He prepares Himself for birth within us. The labor pains are His, not ours; we become awed witnesses to His first and last breath when He makes all things, including us, new again, bearing us up, no matter how heavy the burden we bring to Him.
The world is reborn — even where dark reigned before, even where it is bleakest, even where we were sure we would break the bridge we tread. The broken heart is healed and sealed by grace for which no weight is too great.
The bridge of grace will bear your weight. Charles Spurgeon
When considering the paradox of a holy infant born in a dingy barn, so weak and helpless, completely dependent on others for His care and safety, it seems impossible that such frailty was meant to hold the weight of a struggling drowning humanity in His hands. No sin is too great and nothing too heavy a load for Him to bear.
Advent is a time to reflect on such mysteries, deepening our understanding of the remarkable gift we were given the night God came to earth as one of us, to dwell among us, and now through the person of His Spirit, remains at home in our hearts.
The bridge built that night continues to bear the awful load that we alone could not manage without being lost forever.
A baby becomes our bridge to grace and we have been offered safe passage.