bridges fall; God is love

(photos taken while driving do leave something to be desired--this is the church sign from my childhood parish, just down the street from my parent's house--it reads, "Pray for the victims of the bridge collapse").

I'm at my favorite Minneapolis cafe, the Turtle Bread Company. I smell fresh baked bread, hear the whir of the espresso machine. It's drizzling outside. Everything seems just about right, save for the fact that at the table beside me a mother is trying to explain to her young daughter what it is to be a first responder. I can't hear all her words but she's saying something about ropes and knots and dangerous debris. Now I hear her saying, "Falling 200 feet . . ."

"The chances of this happening again are very, very slight," I hear the mother say.
Her daughter sips her drink thoughtfully, "Like about 5 percent?" She asks.
"No, honey, more like .00005 percent."
"I don't think is going to happen again at all," the little girl says as the two drop their trash in the garbage and head out into the rain.

I'm sipping my latte and munching a scone, and thinking about bridges that fall the terror of twisted steel, smoke and concrete. Cars slipping into the river and bodies crushed under debris, a school bus tipped on its side with the emergency door swung open. And of course I'm thinking about all those kids who miraculously got off that bridge safely,just after the taste truck burst into flames just a few feet from their bus, killing the driver. And I'm thinking of that bridge which I've traveled thoughtlessly-trustingly--over so many times, which we were planning to take tomorrow.

And then comes this other thought, like a tide that I can't stop from surging up, over and over--"God is Love." I try to hold this idea up to our present reality, and the truth of the statement and the truth of that fractured bridge seem to repel each other like magnets turned backwards.

And yet with each passing day, I become more certain that God is love, even as my life brushes up against so many catastrophes. I was in NY for September 11, awaiting Anna's birth. The day before Katrina struck New Orleans we escaped by steamboat, and this week I arrived in Minnesota the night before the bridge fell.

That night as we flew into the city at midnight, Anna and I marveled over how beautiful the Twin Cities looked from above. I pointed out the bridges connecting Minneapolis to St. Paul and Anna commented on how twinkly they were, how perfect.

But now we're struggling to integrate the knowledge that those perfect bridges weren't so perfect after all, that the 35W bridge was stressed and cracked in all sorts of hidden ways that nobody could see from above. If you've ever been to Minneapolis, you can imagine how strange this feels to everyone here, in our tidy, obsessively organized city. As my friend Amber says, "The bridge collapse has brought down shame on your Scandinavian ancestors."

With that shame and sadness come so many questions, especially for those of faith. I'm struggling to hold together the idea that God is Love despite the many pockets of anguish in my own life and in the world beyond. These past few years, we've lost people we love to cancer, car accidents, a heart attack, and AIDS.

With each passing day, I become more certain that life is fragile--that our bodies can be broken in an instant, that life is a tangle of agony and joy. And I also become more certain that God is love.

I asked my friend Bethany about this, about how it can be possible to hold together so much that seems irreconcilable.

"That's part of aging," she tells me, "learning to live in paradox."

So that is the paradox I find myself in on this rainy day in Minneapolis, with cars still submerged in the river a few miles away, with a cracked expanse of concrete and steel etched into my heart.

Each time I hear of another loss, I take a few moments to let it sink in. I cry a little, strike a match and light my lampada before the icons. I surrender all that is broken to the one who heals, and I accept this awareness that life is fragile, I let it remake me even I wipe down the kitchen counters, rock the baby, sip a latte.

With each passing day, it seems more gift, more grace, that I'm able to clean and cry and love, to grow older and learn to dwell in that rough, waiting place where thoughts don't always need to be reconciled, where bridges keep falling down but God doesn't stop being love.


Resa said...

This comment isn't nearly as deep or serious as your post merits. I just wanted to say thanks for the tip on a good coffee place. And if you ever want to get together when you're up here visiting the folks, let me know!



Dove Knits said...

I was worried about you and your family. I'm glad you're all alright.

I love this post.

Molly Sabourin said...

Thank you Jenny.

Ser said...

This is so beautiful, Jenny. You have really been given the opportunity to wrestle with these things (God in the face of much sadness and tragedy) in the past couple of years. I have learned so much from you.

It was great to talk to you on the phone the other day!