Stephen stretched his six-foot frame across the swirling waters of the hot pool. Head on one end, toes on the other, he reminded me of a bridge: “a bridge over troubled waters!”
Typical of an always-penniless sixteen year old, he quipped in response, “Yea, a toll bridge!”
Some declare “life is a beach.” Sometimes I wish it were more like a hot pool — the troubled waters buffet out the tensions instead of creating them! In fact, it would be fantastic to have wall switches like those that they do at the pool, so we could turn OFF the turbulence now and then. Somehow, I can quite easily manage turning ON the trouble switches.
Years ago, some friends had a wall plaque that said, “JESUS IS OUR BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS.” I liked it. Any means to rise above turbulent circumstances appeals to me. Since then, I’ve realized this nifty saying doesn’t mean what I thought it did. I often feel as if I’m swimming the rapids with no way out provided. However, Jesus is still my bridge.
But bridges can be tricky. Remember the Second Narrows? The troubled water didn’t hurt anyone, but when the wind hit, whoever trusted that bridge never made it to the other side. And even safe bridges can be irritating. You know the kind with side rails just at eye level so you can’t see anything. Drawbridges can be distressing too. Like it or not, the bigger water traffic is more important than you are. Those swinging rope bridges give me the most problem. They are like a carnival ride. I’m so scared while I’m on them that I miss the fun I’m supposed to be having.
What kind of a bridge is Jesus? Will He give us a ride like that ill-fated Second Narrows Bridge? Will He guard our vision so much that we can’t see or enjoy the surroundings? Will He suddenly drop His attention from me and give it to some more important traffic? Will my journey with Him be a “five-ticket” ride? Or will He, like Stephen, be more like a toll bridge?
Jesus called Himself “the way” to the Father. He bridges the gap between our sin and God’s holiness. He said His way is narrow, but not twisting, like that ill-fated bridge of similar name. No winds of adversity can twist or destroy Him. His narrow way is better described as turn-style; only one at a time can pass through and enter the life He offers. There is no room for excess baggage. In other words, we don’t go across as a member of a group nor can we take a suitcase of good intentions in one hand and a case of religious or social good deeds in the other. We have to cross alone and just as we are.
This Bridge also promises “abundant life,” meaning among other things that we will not only be able to see what is happening as we go, we will see it more clearly than we ever thought possible. In fact, the view from the Bridge is fabulous!
Jesus is not a drawbridge either. He not only guarantees safe travel and a sure destination but continuous, individual attention. Nothing is more important to Him than giving His people all the loving care we need.
And the greatest of all, Jesus is not a toll bridge. He takes us from our sin to the eternal shore without money or price. He paid the toll when He died in our place. “The wages of sin is death but the GIFT of God is eternal life.” (Romans 6:23) No coin boxes, no payments. Eternal life is a gift. Setting foot on this Bridge means no toll. When we receive His gift of life, He takes only our sin in exchange. Then He buries it — as deep as the bottom of the sea. We may still have to learn how to “swim,” but it will be with His strength and with the sure hope of reaching the other side.