It was the first Sunday in August and time for the customary thanksgiving, when we dance row by row to the altar and then danced back to our seats in orderly fashion.
If you attend my church you’d find the ritual amusing. Whereas you’re shy or maybe not in the mood and can’t wait to get back to the comfort of your seat, right then you might find a boisterous old woman or an overjoyed youth in front of you go into a dance feat, holding up the entire procession. And behind that person you shall be. Moving stiffly inch by inch, thoughts in your head concealed with a weak smile. Or hell! you just might bypass ‘King David’ reborn and hurry along to your seat.
Anyway, that’s a story for another time. I had just completed my procession and was back to my seat, where I watched the remaining congregants file out for theirs. Just as I was soaking in the sweet smelling perfumes, beautiful clothes, scenery and dance steps, an ordinary looking man danced past me.
I don’t know what it was exactly that caught my attention. His dance was a simple two step routine; once to the left and once to the right. He wore native ‘buba and sokoto’ that looked pretty worn-out or dirty, or both and in need of a replacement. Each step was accompanied by a clap of his callused hands. His face was rough and told the story of a man in his mid-fifties engaged in iron welding without using protective masks to shield his face from tiny fire splinters that fly about during welding or iron cutting.
His shoulders slumped slightly, possibly weary from hard labor. Or maybe he appeared so because he made an effort not to look upward, perhaps self-conscious of his appearance under the scrutinizing gaze of people like me present. As he disappeared to the front, I observed something bubbly in his movement; picture imperfect yet he moved as one who understood something we didn’t and had found content with himself doing honest work.
Driving to work the next day, I tuned from one radio station to another; bored with all the talks and news. Then I found music. It was the unmistakable rhythm of country song and classic voice of Jim Reeves singing ‘Across the Bridge.’ The chorus struck a chord:
Across the bridge, there’s no more sorrow
Across the bridge, there’s no more pain
The sun will shine, upon the river
And you’ll never be unhappy again.
Memories of yesterday came back as I realized what caught my attention to the man in church. Across the bridge refers to when we’ve shed our earthly bodies and the heavy weight and duty that accompanies the days of this troubled life. Across the bridge, we won’t have to worry about what we look like or class segregation. If he makes it across the bridge, that man would be truly free and never unhappy again.
For the rest of the day I pondered what the guardian of that bridge would ask when we seek to crossover. Would it be how successful/poor have you been or how faithful have you been? Either rich or poor, the same prize of eternal life is offered to all who believe. I know nothing but this much I know: looking with scorn on people who are equals with us in spirit, being filled with pride or hate will not get us across the bridge. Here on earth, we should go about our duties as athletes desirous to win a prize.
Dear people of hope, you know what you need to do. “Seeing as we are encompassed by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin that easily besets us and run with patience the race before us. Looking unto Christ the author and finisher of our faith…” I hope to make it across the bridge when the time comes and I hope to see you there when the roll-call is made in heaven. ☺