Somewhere in the darkness of that bridge stood a man. We can’t see him in the picture. But isn’t that so often the case? Sometimes we don’t notice the desperate ones until it’s too late.
But he’s there nonetheless. His knuckles white against the concrete barrier and his toes pushing little pebbles over the edge. As the cars rushed by below, I imagine he watches the pebbles shower their windshields. Did he wonder if anyone even noticed?
Frenetic. Frantic. Fast lane life. Moving so quickly we barely notice when the rain is replaced with the softest showering of rock. Something’s out of place. Someone’s out of place. But if we keep moving, we miss it.
He stands on that bridge and believes himself to be alone. Cigna just announced 48 percent of us feel lonely. The loneliest among us? The youngest in the survey group… Generation Z. 18 to 22 year olds. They didn’t survey children, but it’s enough to make one wonder where we’re headed. Each generation lonelier than the last. Generation X, Y, Z… stepping further and further down into disconnection and social isolation. What comes next? There’s not even a letter of the alphabet left to name them. Emptiness. Blackness. Loneliness.
Loneliness may not be the only reason someone stumbles onto a bridge above a whizzing, whirling freeway with every intention of stepping off. But it must be one of the dark and quiet voices that draws you out. Draws you in. Deeper into the darkness. Closer to the edge.
But this time, someone sees. They look up. They look out. They notice! With the police called and the freeway closed, the coaxing begins. You aren’t alone. In the four hours it took to get him to step back, undoubtedly the police said it in a hundred different ways a hundred times. But shining light in the darkness can be slow work and we all know our words don’t matter as much as our actions.
And how do you really tell someone they are never alone? You say “I’ll catch you if you jump.”
Thirteen trucks stopped. They all had somewhere to be by dawn, but they stopped their frenetic, frantic activity. They came out of the darkness, circled up and literally created a safety net out of the only thing they had to offer: their livelihood, their energy, their time. They said – not just with words, but in deed – I see you. You aren’t alone.
And isn’t this what we all need? Even if we aren’t on the edge of an actual bridge, we don’t need someone to tell us how we “should” feel. We don’t usually rationalize our way back from the edge. We need to know someone’s going to catch us even if we jump. When one of us is in a dark place, swallowed up by a thick inky blackness that’s slowly smothering the very spark of life burning in our heart, we can only back away from the edge and come up for air when we know, deep down in our bones, no matter what we are wanted and valued… we are precious in His sight.
The picture of those trucks lined up under the freeway is a picture of God’s kingdom to me. Your kingdom come, your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.
No one interviewed this guy on the bridge and asked for his resume before they stopped what they were doing and lined up their trucks. No one asked what accomplishments he had achieved or whether or not he still called his grandma on Sunday afternoons. No one asked if he’d ever been to prison, held a steady job, or paid his bills on time. They didn’t ask because, truth be told, deep down we know none of this matters. No matter what, his life has value.
And that no matter whatness comes straight from the heart of God. Father Greg Boyle says it best, I think, in his book Tattoos on the Heart:
“The ‘no matter whatness’ of God dissolves the toxicity of shame and fills us with tender mercy. Favorable, finally, and called by name – by the one your mom uses when she’s not pissed off.”
No matter what, you aren’t alone.
No matter what, you are loved.
No matter what, your name is written on the palm of his hands. (Isaiah 49:16)
And there’s not one among us not worth a safety net made of semi-trucks.