Wednesday, July 20, 2011
This is the last piece of creative writing I did for my class.
Late last June I received an email. It wasn’t like I have never received an email before, but this one stated,
I have read your blog and see your heart. Love to talk to you in person. See you at The Bridge.
I receive many emails for my blog. Many of these emails are not fans as I tend to write about things many people do not wish to discuss. I remember a wise man once told me, “Never discuss religion and politics, it will just get you in trouble.” Damn, I wish I had listened to that sometimes. Those are the things I write about—and tend to get many people upset. Funny at times that the two—religion and politics—seem to be mixed by many people. Many of these people consider themselves the “Religious Right, however, I see them as often very religious but rarely right, especially in light of their so-called literal interpretation of the Bible!
Yet there I sat, at my computer just staring at this strange email. It became stranger when I replied. I sent a simple message of:
I am not sure who you are, or what The Bridge might even be, or where it might be. It may be that you sent this to me by mistake.
By the way, I do have a real name; however, the internet is a scary place at times so I often just sign my emails as I do each blog post—The Wanderer.
Then the reply came. It was not a message, but a map signed with of all things—a smiley like this! = )
I sent another message, but this time only received a note that there was no such active email address. I put it out of my mind until yesterday.
I was cleaning out my email when I came across the map. I looked at it and I recognized the area it referred to. I had hiked and camped in that area many times yet never heard of, let alone seen The Bridge. In fact, what intrigued me was that I had not seen this before, and even more, there was no marking that indicated The Bridge was on the map. The top of the map just stated, “To The Bridge. Follow the narrow path.” I scratched my head, and decided I had to check this out.
Today, I set out. I found the starting point that I recognized on the map, and packed the old Jeep pickup with my backpack. I packed light at first then wondered if this might be an overnighter. So, I also decided to pack the sleeping bag and a few necessities just in case. I looked at the map that I printed out, and realized that there now appeared even more detail!
In wonderment, I said out loud. “This can’t be real.” I reached for my MP3 player and scrolled through the songs until I found my favorite group, Kansas. For some reason their songs seemed to speak to me throughout my life, and today, it seemed to be directed at me.
I listened to Steve Walsh sing:
“I'm woven in a fantasy; I can't believe the things I see
The path that I have chosen now has led me to a wall
And with each passing day I feel a little
More like something dear was lost
It rises now before me, a dark and silent barrier between,
All I am, and all that I would ever want be
It's just a travesty, towering, marking
Off the boundaries my spirit would erase.”
I began to think about the walls and barriers I had faced in my life. I thought how the fundamentalist mindset builds walls to keep people out while those oppressed build walls to protect themselves. However any wall that is not faced leaves us wondering what is beyond that wall. My mind seemed carried away in thought until the last few lines in the song seemed to again speak at me directly:
“And though it's always been with me, I must tear down the Wall and let it be
All I am and all that I was ever meant to be, in harmony
Shining true and smiling back at all who wait to cross
THERE IS NO LOSS”
Straight out, my biggest wall was God. In many ways God seemed so real, yet as such impenetrable. If there was a need for a bridge to get to God I know I would have questions to ask. I read enough theology (maybe too much) in my life to either screw me up or wise me up. Which? I am not sure about.
I found the starting point on the map and again, there were more details on the map than before. It was as if… if as I moved forward, there came more details. I saw the hiking trail the map pointed out and headed up the trail. It was a hot day and I was glad I had frozen half my canteen before I added water. I passed the marked stream and came to a “Y” in the road. I had hiked these trails many times and never noticed that other trail. The map marked as Frost Trail. I mused at the joke a bit. If someone was playing a joke on me, this one was a doozy! I decided to take the trail that appeared “less traveled”.
The trail seemed to be much rougher than I thought at first. At times I would look back at the view and marvel at the majesty of the mountains. I climbed a bit more and found a river. I looked at the map and noticed the river seem to appear just as I looked at the map. The name was intriguing. The name was The River of Man. I looked at the water closer and realized it was not like the other mountain streams. This was an ugly, hostile—almost angry looking, river. At times I swore I saw faces in torment as it rolled past me. I wished this was only a dream.
I walked coming to a clearing where at first I saw a person. Then I realized he was standing before a bridge. On the bridge stood three other people all dressed in what appeared to be some sort of monk robes.
The man smiled at me and I realized he seemed to be blind yet could see me. He put out his hand and stated, “Few make it this far my friend, we are honored by your presence.”
“I really do not know how to respond.” I stammered.
“My name is Paul, you must be The Wanderer. Do you still have the map?”
“Yes.” I said.
I held it out and Paul unrolled the map and as before details appeared on the map. Paul smiled and said, “I love it when The Glory does that.” Paul then turned to me and asked, “I suppose you want to know what this is all about huh, son.”
“I am a bit afraid to ask.” I replied.
Paul then started to tell a story.
“Many years ago, humanity lost touch with who they really are. They lost touch of their value. God created man and woman, and called them good, yet man and woman decided that day at the tree, to see as if they were God and set their own values on things. Are you with me so far?”
I nodded yes.
Paul continued, “Over time, God tried to show that He was not like the other gods humans had created. He even picked a pagan named Abram (later called Abraham) to be the father a nation set apart for God. These people were to be the representatives of God on earth to The Others. The Chosen had been given Laws to set them apart from the pagans. However, over time the Law became stricter and soon the Spirit behind The Law was lost. People lost sight of compassion and balanced The Law stood for. In a sense, The Law replaced God or became a tool to try to force God’s Hand in moving. Then came the fullness of time, when The Glory of The Bridge appeared. The Glory laid down his life for all humans. In fact he was a New Human, the first of many to become his brothers and sisters.”
“What does this have to do with me today?” I asked.
Paul smiled and stated, “Today is the day of salvation. It is as simple as crossing a bridge over the troubled waters of humanity. One can try to cross on their own and slip into the stream and be taken where the cruel waters of life takes them, or trust the Builder of The Bridge and cross over.”
“What if I don’t make a choice?” I asked.
Paul smiled and said, “It is sort of like that Rush song, Free Will, ‘If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.’ Salvation is free. It comes only by Grace so no one can boast. However, once you cross over The Bridge, your life ends but a New Life begins.”
“Do you mean like dying and being raised again?” I asked.
“Yes.” Paul stated and turned walking toward the bridge. “Are you coming or not? You were the one who had all those questions.”
I stood there trying to figure this all out. Was this real? Was it a grandiose delusion or something? I found that I was drawn to The Bridge as if it were calling me. I stepped on and realized again that there were other men on The Bridge.
Paul pointed over to them and introduced each one. “That guy is Peter, we call him Rocky. Then there is John and over there is James.”
I stammered and said, “L-like those guys in the Bible? I-I mean, are you those guys?”
The Bridge erupted with laughter and Peter took his big hands and smacked me on the back. I was a bit in shock and missed exactly what he said, but it sounded like, “Friend.” so I smiled back.
I looked at the men and noticed that Peter was the rough and tumble guy I had in my mind. John seems slight, yet firm with somewhat of a runners build. But James, he looked like every picture of Jesus I ever saw. I even began to ask if it was Jesus and as if on cue, John reminded me, “James was the brother of Jesus, The Glory.”
Paul looked at me, and as blind as he was; it seemed as if he looked not only at me, but within me. He reminded me of what I said before I stepped on The Bridge, “Brother, you had questions?” His smile was radiant and he looked as if transfixed between earthly and heavenly domains. I looked and saw his hands, and remembered how Paul was beaten for his faith many times and even left for dead.
I blurted out the first question that came into my head. “So what is faith?
Paul smiled again and said, “The Bible states it as ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’”
“Sort of like not seeing but still believing? But what about people like Doubting Thomas who had to see to believe?” I asked.
Paul laughed again and said, “Well, as you can see, Thomas is not a greeter on The Bridge is he?”
John looked over at Paul and said sternly, “Be nice now, Paul. Remember you saw The Glory and your sight has never been the same.”
Peter broke in, “Be careful with that Paul, He speaks to both Jew and Greek in one breath. His writing has such deep knowledge, and at times his words are hard to grasp.”
I tried to act as if I recovered from all the shock and stated, “I guess I understand that a bit, how else would you describe faith?”
John looked at me and stated, faith is simply trust in action. You trust a chair to hold you when you sit in it. You also trust The Bridge to let you cross over the river. As you moved forward, you trusted The Map to reveal your destination.”
“I get that.” I said.
I then sort of remembered the big question—the question I did not want to ask as both Paul and James stood at each end of The Bridge. I blundered on anyway. “I have heard that Paul and James are at odds with each other in their ideas of salvation. Paul says, ‘Salvation by Grace through faith, so none should boast.”
Paul smiled at me as if he knew what was coming.
“Yet, James states, ‘Faith without works is dead.” I dreaded the words as they came out. “So, who is right?”
Paul laughed out loud and said “No one is right! I wrote that to the Letter to the Romans… well it was more ‘No one is righteous-not one’” All joined in the laughter—even James.
James broke his silence and walked toward me. He put a gentle hand on my shoulder and explained. “You see, Paul speaks of how we come to The Bridge. You cross over, and as you leave, I remind you of why you were created. You were created for good works. Paul wrote that, by Faith you walk in your New Life and doing these Good Works the creator gave you to do. This is done in Faith. If you are not doing those works as you were created to do, then you need to look at your faith as living or dead. It is sort of like when Paul stated, ‘make you election sure’.”
I thought for a moment and then said, “I understand that, but I know of people who point out that the Creator does not really care about this world as evil is rampant. I sometimes think they have a point and often have no answer for them.”
James smiled kindly and stated, “One must remember that these are not works you do under your own power and will, but that of the good and perfect Will of the Creator.”
I stood silently, knowing that James would say more.
“These works are for you to do, but are the Father’s works in and through you.” He continued, “If someone is complaining about evil winning, then they are not looking to do the Father’s good and prefect Will. The Father created you and even those skeptics to do good works, and to complain and not do anything is only contributing to the problem. It is like someone who only wants to criticize but not offer any suggestions to better the problem. You might be surprised, but the Creator can even use those who do not want relationship with Him to do good works for Him. So, I would simply ask them, ‘What are you personally doing about evil and injustice you see as they also have responsibility to others as long as they live.”
I looked at James, “I get it, thus The Bridge. Paul calls us to it we enter in faith and you remind us how to live this New Life. I looked up and realized the day was leaving fast. I looked at the men and said, “You said, today is the day of salvation. Then I must cross today?”
John looked at me and said, “Every day is a new Today, but Today it is your choice.”
I shook their hands and thanked them for all they taught me. I looked at James as I crossed and James said, “Remember, faith without works is dead, but today, you found New Life. Live justly, for the just shall live by faith.”
I turned and looked at the wooded area around me. It seemed so beautiful. I turned around to tell the men and found all was gone. The Bridge, river, Paul, Peter, John and James--all vanished. I looked at my hands and instead of the Map, I held an old leather Bible. I laughed and headed back to the Jeep.
As I was driving home, I saw someone with a flat tire. I pulled over and for the next 15 minutes helped change the tire. I talked of Today and The Bridge. The man looked at me with a tear in his eye and said, “Did you get an email from Paul too?”