There I stood – cars on one side, a thin metal railing on the other. I had to keep walking forward and couldn’t go back. This is supposed to be fun? I thought. The view was so breathtakingly beautiful that even a quick glance made me feel like I was falling even as I felt my feet hitting the ground.
And I wished to be a different person – a braver, less afraid of heights, and comfortable with the future. But the fact is, I was born more of a writer than a fighter. A swing set was too much of an adrenaline rush for me as a kid. There was a short window between the ages of 17-21 where I jumped off a couple cliffs and one or two rope swings. But then I hit the ground emotionally – and realized just how vulnerable we all are. All the things we think are important (grades, jobs, and planning the perfect vacation) sink pretty quickly beneath bigger waves.
“The ground is just fine, thank you very much.”
– Katrina’s brain and heart
Where do you go to make your soul feel alive? For me, I realize that my heart leans more towards a quiet meadow with a barn. Or a strawberry field with a gentle breeze. For others, walking (or running) across the beautiful deception pass bridge is life-giving to them (I’m looking at you my crazy daredevil siblings). We can get caught up in the lie that we should constantly chase experiences that are instagram worthy or that make our heart race, when in reality I think we should be living with our souls on fire. Souls that are burning with a desire to be free of this place and simultaneously unafraid to live the best life we can in this place.
Your identity can’t be placed in pictures, likes, awards, or even what people say about you. Because if those are the places you/we/me look for identity that’s a much more precarious place to be then a narrow, but very stable, bridge tourists like to walk over. We need to have vulnerable hearts to the hurting of this world – but be tough enough to not take this world too seriously. It’s a tension that I hate and love.
We are our souls on fire
We are reaching higher
We are our souls on fire
When we come alive
-Switchfoot, “When We Come Alive.”
Ok, so back to the bridge. There I found myself finally crossing the first deception pass bridge, only to realize that there are two bridges. TWO BRIDGES?? what maniac thought this idea up?? (Probably a brilliant engineer who isn’t afraid of heights or being close to cars). And I had to turn back because I was feeling woozy and disoriented and not at all mentally prepared to keep going. I think if I went back now I could do it because I’d have enough time to think it through. Sometimes it’s ok to say “This is too much, I have to turn back.” We live in a culture where you must push the boundaries and break records and where setting limits can be seen as a failure. But there is beauty in agency. In choice. In knowing how far you can go before you try again.
I like hearing Bible stories because they’re not fairy tales. The story of Joseph is one of my favorites. Joseph was a slave for years and years and years. He is kind of like Cinderella, but instead of finding true love at a ball, he ends up running away from his owner’s wife and finding himself back at the bottom of society again (prison). He also gets to save a whole country from famine, only to be faced with his family’s own brokenness in the end. Cinderella never has to face her evil stepmother and decide if she’s going to forgive her.
I relate the most to the Joseph who is enslaved. The one in the pit waiting the slavers his brothers are selling him too. The Joseph who is imprisoned. Becoming “successful” only to lose it all over and over. Thinking “I’ve made it!” only to discover my own heart has become desolate wasteland. Joseph didn’t give up, or if he did we don’t know about it. He remembered God’s promises to him over and over again. Joseph faced an uncertain future over and over again as his fates constantly changed. Maybe we can face uncertain futures with the hope that we follow a God who rules with certainty. A God who doesn’t want us to be someone else or hide from who we are but to fully accept grace. Grace-filled souls that accept our weaknesses but carry on nonetheless. Souls on fire.
“We are fire
You and I
Strength, heart, soul, mind.”
Switchfoot, “When We Come Alive.”