That old broken bridge
When was the last time you made your way to a place you’ve never been? Maybe a restaurant that’s been around forever but you’ve never visited. Maybe a place overseas you only ever dreamed and finally made the trip. Maybe more esoteric . . . maybe a place internally you finally focused to be more self-affirming, to process that “thing” that you knew was holding you back so you could forgive and be set free, to spend time figuring out if you had hopes and dreams that you’ve ignored for too long?
The bridge over 119th street being out of commission is what started this whole thing. There’s never not been a bridge over I-35 on 119th. O.k. there probably was a time in history where there wasn’t, but not in the history I’ve spent in Olathe. It’s a major artery, a moat over an interstate of alligators or semi’s, vans, suv’s and anything motorized that will travel anywhere from the speed limit to 10-15 mph beyond the speed limit at all times of night and day. So there’s College, and 127th Street, and Santa Fe, and 151st street. Inconvenient, a little more inconvenient, mostly inconvenient, waaaay inconvenient. 1st world problem, more first world problem, most first world problem, waaaay first world problem. Baskin Robbins? Other side of broken bridge. Torchy’s? Other side of broken bridge. Wahlburgers? Other side of broken bridge. Granite City? Don’t even talk to me about it.
The reason the bridge is broken is because all of God’s people on I-35 at particular times of the day want to get off on the 119th street exit and traffic was backing up onto the interstate and stopping a thru lane of traffic even though there were two lanes of “exit only” to 119th. Is it a driving problem? A population problem? A stoplight timing problem? A safety problem? I’m guessing yes.
Sometimes I don’t want to go to a place I’ve never been, even if I’ve heard the food is great, the overseas country is uniquely beautiful, dealing with negative thoughts, forgiving someone, or reconnecting with hopes and dreams might bring a kind of joy I’ve not had before. Why fix what is broke but we can still make work? I know the actual saying is: why fix what ain’t broke, but I think we humans are also like, why fix what’s broke if we can limp along with duct tape and bubblegum as long as we don’t have to change our usual routine or route as the case may be?
It’s sorta like Jesus. You knew I’d go there. The good religious folk of the day were the ones who wanted him around the least – because why fix what may be sorta broke for some people but we can still make work for those of us who feel like we have the right answers and are part of God’s inner circle? Who wouldn’t be thrilled with a power that could feed 5,000+ people, walk on water then calm the storm, heal people with demons, bent over, or with withered hands even if it was on the Sabbath? Who wouldn’t be thrilled? Us. You know, the us that lived 2,000 some years ago but with whom we share a penchant for liking to be right sometimes way more than liking to be in relationship. And what was Jesus about? Liking to be in relationship more than acclaiming himself to be right, even though we Jesus followers know he was both.
That old bridge, (you know where we know we are way more right than everybody else?) it’s a hard one to see broken, even if we kinda know the new one might be safer for everyone, help the flow of traffic, and maybe even make life easier for all of us. Now before I hit Freddy’s for my pre-worship Wednesday lunch, I have to think about how I want to get there. College is the quickest, but there’s something about the 127th street bridge that’s more satisfying to Blackbob and over. Plus I can start that way and then take College back and it feels like a symmetrical loop – and for a bit of spatial and elliptical geek, a weird sense of completion.
When the 119th street new bridge is complete, it’s going to be way different. Think 95th street – or even the exit from K-10 to Ridgeview, that whole crossing over to drive on the left side of the traffic flow which is some engineering answer to something I didn’t realize was a problem. I’m sure it has to do with calculus and actuarial formulae and probly something about a 3-D printer and bit-coin and yes a QR code that elicits the pictures inside the box who are longing to be free.
Of course back to Jesus – he was that kind of bridge leading to that oddly weird but it seems to work left sided traffic flow – between the law and the spirit and the spirit of the law, between the former covenant and the future covenant and the commonality of grace, between the ordinary and the exceptional and finding the exceptional in the ordinary – and it all felt like too much until we realized the too much, or we might say abundance, was in fact the definition of God’s grace. And we still and yet struggle with it and him and our faith in the reality of life – the conveniences, the inconveniences and the problem of too much grace – because really? Should that many people get fed for free and then have leftovers? And shouldn’t those people that were healed at least admit that they smoked some in college, or ate the whole bag of Chester Cheese Corns in one sitting, or sometimes didn’t exercise for 30 mins at least 3-5 days a week? Aaaaah, broken bridges, broken covenants, broken bodies, broken spirits and rebuilt through abundant and healing grace. And for the 119th street bridge – a few steel girders, some rebar, truck loads of cement, and starkly clear signage for those of us not used to driving on the left side of the traffic flow.
The day will come when we won’t remember the inconvenience of the deconstruction and reconstruction schedule of the bridge but will take for granted the ease of the traffic flow. Maybe that’s what happens with our faith a little too, the whole taking for granted thing. So much that we stop thinking about the ones for whom the economic, or political, or religious systems as they are, don’t work so well. Maybe a pandemic, not caused by God and God is walking through it with us, deconstructs what has not been working for everyone, stops the taken for granted part, and invites us to reconstruct life in a way that is more just, and merciful, and looks way more like the way of Jesus.
Let’s take some different streets over different bridges for awhile, more or less inconvenient, and with a whole different perspective along the way. We may end up in a completely different place than we’ve ever been, which may, in fact, be God’s hope for all of us.