I was reading about a new suspension bridge that recently opened in China. Called ‘Brave Man’s Bridge’, it is made of ¾ inch glass on a steel frame, is 984 feet long and is just under 55 stories high. It’s suspended across a chasm. Originally intended as a wooden bridge, the builders experimented with one glass section before revamping the whole thing. It’s an amazing, terrifying thing to see.
Video of tourists crossing the bridge show people crossing in all manner of ways. Some hold on for dear life to the rails, some crawl, some walk with their eyes closed, some walk in groups while encouraging each other, some sit for a time, some go as fast as they can to get it over with, some turn back. It probably goes without saying that most people will never step foot on this bridge, at all, ever in their lives.
I imagine that walking on this bridge is similar to experiencing a life of faith. You have to travel a long way just to be in a position to step foot on to it, and then it sometimes seems so far and so scary that it’s hard to keep going. I have known lots of people who walk in faith just like those tourists do, and in fact I have walked in each of those ways at different times in my life. Sometimes I desperately hold on to the rails. Seeking guidance and support in the structures of my faith, I pray a million Hail Marys, attend as many Masses as I can, seek God in scripture and in formal prayers. Sometimes I just barrel through with my eyes closed. It’s easier to do that than to really think about what I’m doing, but it’s not particularly effective. After all, to reach a goal, you really should look where you’re going. God knows sometimes I’m driven to my knees and everything about life feels like a desperate crawl where I achieve only inches at a time, but at least I progress.
I’m at a time in life now where I find I’m sitting by myself, not moving forward really at all. And it’s probably the scariest place to be, because while I sit there ruminating and overthinking, there is the possibility that I will just head back where I started rather than crossing all the way. I don’t want that. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into getting where I am, and I intend to finish, and God willing, finish well. When I finally do rise up and move forward, I’ll be relying on that steel structure underneath my feet to keep me elevated and supported as I walk in faith. It was created just for that purpose, just for me and for all of us who travel. It’s my foundation and it’s Jesus, stretched out to get me to the other side. My foundation is reliable and tested and trustworthy. And as it turns out, the glass that sits on top of the frame isn’t even really structurally necessary; it can give us a steady place to stand and it does reveal just how high the stakes are in this crossing. In that way, it’s probably a lot like church. Regardless, it’s best not to look down but to keep our eyes focused on the other side. I do that a lot, even now while I’m just seated there on that bridge. I can’t see it quite yet but I do dream about what I will find when I get there.
So why walk at all? Plenty of people never do, even many people who profess a life of faith never risk anything and stand comfortably at the side. Somehow they have the mistaken idea that a life of faith will not demand this crossing of them, but they’re wrong. Faith asks everything of us and it’s scary to get to the other side. The best way to do it is with trusted people that will walk with you, encouraging you all the way. Thankfully, I have people like that for me in my walk, and I hope I’ve been helpful for you in your walk from time to time. That’s what it’s all about, after all, that’s the whole design, and how it’s supposed to work. When we get to the other side, there will be relief and celebration and congratulations and hugs and it will be awesome. I have no idea how much farther there is to go, and I wish I did, but I have that homecoming vision in my mind and it guides my steps. I am determined to walk well.