One late evening on a camping trip in 3rd grade, my dad and a family friend, Mr. Stroude, took my Girl Scout troop out on a nature walk. We weaved along the path through the woods, giggling with our flashlights dancing around the dirt and moss and trees, until the adults stopped us and asked us to turn off our flashlights. As our eyes adjusted, we realized that we had neared the beginning of a long floating bridge across a large marsh. I say “the beginning” because the length of the crossing and the darkness of the Indiana country meant that, even with my 20/20 vision, I could only see to about the middle of the bridge.
Mr. Stroude proceeded to walk out onto the bridge and soon melted away into the darkness at its center. My dad then explained to us that if we wanted to continue, we would have to walk across the bridge individually, without our flashlight, and meet Mr. Stroude on the other side.
“WHAT?!?” More than a little terrifying, Dad!
I wasn’t alone in that sentiment. All of us were frightened of the potentially infinite (but definitely creaking) bridge and the murky water beneath it, but no one really wanted to turn back when others might go on without her and see wonderful sights. Eventually, I mustered my courage and stepped out over the marsh into the darkness.
I am about to step out onto another bridge, the end of which is covered in darkness. I will soon finish my two years in the Echo program through Notre Dame, and I cannot yet see where God is asking me to go. I cannot see whether I will pass the comprehensive exams for my master’s degree at the end of the summer. I cannot see whether I will have a job come the fall, or even what kind of job may present itself. I cannot see where marriage fits into my future. I cannot see how my relationships will hold up when I move to a new city and leave this community behind.
As I pondered all these unknowns, this story from my memory and this prayer from Thomas Merton kept coming forward:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following
your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
The process of crossing these bridges was and will be a matter of trust. I trusted that my dad would not have asked me to walk a bridge that would not hold me, and I had to recall that trust with each ominous creak. I will trust that Christ is doing the same. I trusted that Mr. Stroude had walked the bridge before me and had already confronted the fears inherent in doing so, and was waiting on the other side, even if I could not see him. I will trust that Christ is doing the same.
Of course, I found that each time I reached the darkest part of the bridge, it was no longer completely dark, and there were at least a few more steps to see - enough to allow me to keep walking. I will trust that Christ will show me enough of what’s next to let me keep moving towards Him.
Laura Berlage serves as an Echo Faith Formation Apprentice in the Diocese of Camden, NJ... for now.