by Kitty Foyle
God constructs a bridge throughout my life that leads me to Him.
| The ocean is wide.
I can’t cross over.
Neither have I wings to fly.
Reflections on the Bridge-Builder
I heard God say to me, “I want to show you something.” These words marked the beginning of a vision that is still coming through in waves. Memories lick the shoreline of my mind as I try to recall them in sequence. The memories ebb and flow like ocean tides and this has its own purpose – because my finite mind can handle only so much of what God has purposed for me in them. If this thought can be grasped, then so can the telling of my connections between the then and the now, the Kingdom significance of these connections, and how every concrete block, wire girder and divine message in the construction of my own spiritual bridge was engineered by God Himself.
When God first told me that He had something to show me, I was captivated. I was electric with anticipation. I followed His guiding Hand as he pointed a spotlight on certain events in my life. The illumination was brilliant. I was ensconced. I felt the manifestation of God’s presence. What He showed me drove me to seek Him even more.
Let me start with the simplicity of the beginning of the vision. I saw a bridge. It was a bridge I recognized from my hometown in coastal Georgia. The bridge’s name is Sidney Lanier. Yes, just like the poet. Actually it was named for the poet. Lanier composed poems of epic beauty about his natural surroundings. He often wrote while he sat under one of the many live oak trees in Brunswick and the barrier islands of Saint Simons and Jekyll. Lanier espoused the languid landscape of the area and many believe that his poems attracted early twentieth century millionaires to vacation in the Golden Isles of Georgia. The Sidney Lanier Bridge was constructed to connect the port city of Brunswick with the mainland area on the other side of the Brunswick River, an intracoastal waterway.
The bridge was an important part of my childhood. It was affectionately known as “The Big Bridge” to those of us who grew up in the area because there are so many other smaller bridges. It appeared very regal and majestic with its stacked x construction towers and control booth for the ‘bridgeman’ to raise and lower the lift section for passing boats and ships. When God showed me the vision of the bridge, the actual Sidney Lanier Bridge had been deconstructed to make way for a new and improved cable-stayed bridge that towered over the old and mysterious sturdy lift bridge. I am sure that this endeavor required superior planning, strength and time. How like God to show me that His Love remembers my past, forgives my sins, and from what is behind me constructs something stronger and higher for me to get to what is ahead of me. He did not dismantle my old spiritual bridge, but rather took its steel beams, concrete pillars and all its particles, and built an eternal structure on the foundation of His Love. I started to understand that God was taking me back in time in the vision so that I might be able to comprehend my present spiritual reality.
The reality of being spiritually present is a totally new concept for me. I had only known God a few months when He gave me the vision and before that, I existed in isolation and desolation. It was as if I was standing in the middle of a very high, never-ending bridge that led to nowhere. I couldn’t return to the other side of the bridge because where I came from was known to me as the land of pain. I felt abandoned and trapped. I was lost. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me. Then God helped me to see the reality of what He did for me, of how He had always been there – even in the pain – and that He had been building a way for me to get to Him all along. God knew that I would have to experience the pain, the feelings of abandonment, isolation and loss before I could find Him. When I did finally find Him, it did not take me long to see the beauty, truth, love and grace of how He had brought me to Him.
The succession of memories that illuminated these attributes of God began with a memory of an event that happened nine days before I was to be six years old. On November 7, 1972, a ship called African Neptune struck the Sidney Lanier Bridge and caused parts of it to collapse. I remember riding in the car with my parents to view the damage from afar. The broken bridge was scary and ugly, and I could vividly imagine the missing parts lying on the bottom of the murky waters of the Brunswick River like they were corpses. Ten people died that night. I could also imagine their dead bodies as food for the aquatic life on the bottom of that river.
It took many months to complete the repairs. The bridge’s former gray color was painted over in greenish-gray as a final stage before its reopening. I remember talk of hesitation about using the bridge again following the accident. People were just scared. For those who lost family and friends in the accident there was also pain. No amount of repairs or new paint would bring back their loved ones or remove the sting of death.
The time of the accident was near the same time that my father initially left my family. He took another job about two hours away from Brunswick. We eventually moved to be with him, but this original moving away caused a collapse in me. God showed me that when my father left, my feeling of support left with him. A father is someone you depend on to keep you stable. When he left, so did my stability. Just like the legs of the bridge that were struck hard by a moving vessel and cracked and spilled into the water, so I had my legs – my support – taken out from under me when my father moved away. I remember feeling weak and unsteady when he was first ‘not there’ – I refused to use the word ‘gone’ for many years because of the permanence it implied. Things were just not right. My mother told me that we would live with Daddy again, and she was right, but to a six year-old, it was completely unnerving. The time my Dad was living separately from us was the initial collapse of my spiritual bridge. My foundation was shaky and drowning in murky water. I could not be comforted by words or promises from my mother. Like the new paint on the old bridge, it was merely an external attempt at making me forget the pain I felt internally. The paint did not make people forget about the accident or about the loss of life. Likewise, no matter how many attempts or how sincere those attempts were, my mother’s glossing-over reassurances of future family unity could not negate the painful reality of my father abandoning us.
But God is so incredibly kind. He picks up the pieces of our brokenness and reshapes them into the people He created us to be. He does this for people who believe in Him as the only God, the God of creation, the Lord of heaven and earth, and who believe that His Son is Lord and Savior. He takes our collapsed hearts and fills them to overflowing with His infinite and compassionate Love. When God showed me the connection between the 1972 breakdown of a section of the Sidney Lanier Bridge and the moving away of my father, I was able to see how God works. I saw that this was not only the first collapse in my heart, but was also the first stage in God’s re-engineering of the bridge that would take me to knowing Him. The corpses I envisioned on the river-bottom I now see as the ideals I had of family relationships. Specifically, numerous aspects of typical familial life and livelihood died when my father left. These include trust, hope, unity, solidarity, and most importantly, love. These foundational aspects of positive family life and structure drowned in the murky depths of what remained following my father’s departure. God showed me that my father left quite a wake behind him and the aforementioned necessities were just some of the casualties. The rippling effect of my father’s wake not only shaped my childhood, but defined my entire life, at least up to the point where I met God. I allowed his leaving to shape me, I know this, but I also know that God allowed it to happen, planned for it even because it was the only way to Him.
During the bridge repairs in 1973, there were massive cylindrical concrete pillars that were hoisted into the river to replace lost support to the bridge’s existing foundations. My mother would park the car so we could watch some of the repair work – from a safe distance of course. Even from far away, I could see that these pillars were gigantic. Two or three cranes had to be used to lower them into the water. What God showed me about this is that what man destroys, He can rebuild. My father’s leaving destroyed my family as I knew it. The abandonment by my father undercut my identity, my ability to trust, and my sense of support. Just like what happened to the bridge, I had to be repaired. I thought I could do it myself. God showed me that my life is not a do-it-yourself project, and without Him, I could only make the exterior look better. The interior would still be broken down, and that was of no use to God. So God created for me a new foundation – a cornerstone that is Jesus Christ – to build my life upon. Jesus is like those gigantic concrete pillars that were added to support the bridge. Only He is not an added support, He is the support. His properties are stronger and more durable than cement, which, when mixed with water, is how concrete is made. Jesus Himself, the Living Water, is concrete, however, in that He is eternal, faithful, and immutable. He is trustworthy and, according to Scripture, we can do all things through Him. He is the only foundation that you can build your life on that will not crumble. He is unshakeable.