This morning I crossed Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from North Shore to the New Orleans side of the lake on my way to Louis Armstrong International Airport. The Causeway spans 24 miles and is the longest bridge over water in the world. Bridges make me nervous (gross understatement–just ask my wife) because they typically rise high above the water’s surface to allow ships to pass beneath, but I actually relished this level journey with expansive water views in all directions. A squadron of Pelicans bobbed in syncopation atop the choppy surface to my right while terns took turns (pun intended) plunge-diving the surface in search of breakfast. Shimmering on the gossamer horizon to the south was the stair stepped skyline of the city. All of it was, in a word, beautiful. Perhaps due to being back in the city of my birth and subsequent adoption, or possibly the result of observing the rebuilding still underway a decade following Katrina’s rage in the Crescent City, but for reasons I cannot fully explain, this morning, on this bridge, over this lake, sang a melody of mercy. Thank God I didn’t miss the moment or the message.
I’ve not always excelled at recognizing or reveling in grace. I endured a span of time in my forties in which, although I still struggled to walk with the Lord, I interpreted grace as a figment of ancient writers’ imaginations, a cruel joke played on the unsuspecting and naive. Promises violated by those I previously trusted and dismembered dreams derailed my confidence in God and myself, handing down a harsh reminder that there is no plot without conflict and that stories do not always enjoy happy endings. During those dark days God more resembled Judge than Father. I prayed out of ingrained duty, and these meager offerings recoiled across the emptiness of my own heart. Fortunately for all of us, brokenness lays the brickwork for awakening. Revival emerges from the wake of great loss, and grace is most clearly detected in the dark. Father reached deep down and pulled me surface-ward so that I could breath again. It was then that I heard again the strain of mercy that hurt had muffled and all but extinguished. Grace is always present-tense, which means God is author of infinite second chances; the challenge is to see it for yourself and courageously follow mercy back to the heart of a loving Father. We cannot hold moments forever; they touch us as they pass and draw our heart to the One who lives above and beneath them. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).