Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lessons from the Boat Bridge

Connecting our town to the neighboring city is a bridge that drives me bonkers.
Fairhaven/New Bedford Bridge
circa 1890

It is a historical bridge, from the late 1800's and is one of the oldest Swing Bridges still operating in America.  

What is a swing bridge, you ask?  It is a bridge that normally looks like this...

New Bedford/Fairhaven Bridge

...but swings open to allow boats to pass through, like so:

We live right around the corner from this bridge, and when the bridge is open (meaning cars can drive across it) it allows me to drive the kids to school in about 5 minutes.  But when it is closed (meaning boats can pass through) then I have to go the long way around, and it takes me about 12 minutes to get the kids to school.

The bridge runs on the following schedule:

  • Daily, from 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM, the bridge opens (or closes to vehicle/foot traffic) at the top of each hour: 6 AM, 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM and 10 AM.
  • Then daily from 11:15 AM to 6:15 PM, the bridge opens 15 minutes past each hour: 11:15 AM, 12:15 PM, 1:15 PM, 2:15 PM, 3:15 PM, 4:15 PM, 5:15 PM and 6:15 PM.
  • After 6:15 PM, the bridge will open on-demand from marine traffic by calling the bridge keeper’s office on marine channel 13.
Now you may be thinking, "Hey Colleen, that bridge is really cool!  I would love to see that thing in action!"  And I would slap you across the face, tell you to pull yourself together, and let you know that it's only exciting the first time you see it happen.  It gets increasingly frustrating every time you get "stuck" in bridge traffic for 15 minutes.  Because that's how long it takes to open and close the bridge.  

Every morning I yell at loudly encourage the kids to get out of the house by 6:50 so we can make it across the bridge.  And almost every morning, we miss that mark.  Luckily there is a sign that I can see when I'm at the end of our driveway that tells us if the bridge is closed, and I can go the other route.  Unluckily there has been construction going on near the bridge for months and months and the sign has not been working.  So I look at the clock and see that it's 6:56 and stupidly forget the sign is broken, and try to make a mad dash for the bridge only to arrive close to the bridge to find it closed.  Urgh.  

On a good day, there's room to turn around and drive the other way.  On a bad day, we're stuck in traffic watching another episode of "As the Bridge Turns".

I wish I could say that I've mastered the art of keeping my frustrations to myself, but the kids know all too well that a big sigh and audible "AAAARRRRGHHHHH" from Mom means the bridge is once again the bane of my existence.

When I calm down, I try to remind myself that I'm perhaps the most.impatient.person.on.the.planet and God is probably trying to teach me patience.  But just recently I realized He may be trying to teach me something bigger.

Not only am I impatient, but I'm a bit of a control freak (poor Phil) and missing the bridge has a deeper meaning for me.  

When I push my will on everyone around me (yelling at the kids to hurry up), and don't take the time to pray and seek God's Will (the broken sign), the easy path I want to take (crossing the bridge) actually becomes the longer, harder, and more frustrating route.  If I would just pray for and follow God's Will for my life, even the path that seems the hardest and longest choice (going around the bridge) is actually the best because it gets me to my destination sooner and happier.

God's Will is not always as easy to view as a working bridge sign, but it's definitely worth trying to see because He desires for us to be happy with Him in Heaven.  This Lent I am making it a priority to take some of my "precious" time and give it to our precious Lord because He knows exactly what I need in this life to be able to spend the next life with Him.  And I'm betting that following His path to holiness will get me there sooner and happier than any plans I could make.


  1. This is one of my favorite posts you've ever done. And I'm sincerely happy you always give us the route that bypasses this bridge when we come see you, because I am even less patient than you claim to be.

  2. Colleen- I am not even joking. That would drive me crazy. Like, really and truly crazy. I am crazy person about time and wasting it. And, a bridge like that would end my sanity. Maybe you should just move. Kidding (not really)

  3. Hey Colleen, that bridge is really cool...oops, never mind.
    That schedule just made my head swim. I suppose you are used to it and it's quite helpful that you can see the sign from the driveway.

    I find that sometimes I sit on the bridge and it keeps on swinging. I think that if I sit/mope/complain long enough maybe God will change HIS mind and let me do what I want. I only end up dizzy/sick and eventually God bonks me in the head, gives me a push off the bridge and I'm back on track again.

    I need to keep watching for His signs, spend time with Him and see where He is directing me this lent. I know that I definitely need to give more of me to Him.

    Thanks for the analogy and the reminder!

  4. Fabulous! But gosh, I remember that feeling!

  5. "And I would slap you across the face...."


    This entire post is wonderful. Thank you for looking deeper AND sharing your insight.

  6. Great reflection. I think that bridge would drive me crazy too...I'd probably just drive the long way all the time instead of trying to figure out the schedule..and get out the door early, especially at 6:50 AM.

  7. Your honesty is beautiful and inspiring at the same time.

    I feel like my face has a red mark on it (it's kind of cool, but I'd feel frustrated, I get that way just looking at the clock).

    Blessings to you and your Lent.

  8. sounds frustrating. I wish I could say our mornings are perfect here--but its quite similar. I yell all the time at everyone.

    wake up 15 mins earlier each day. That way you won't be so stressed and given to yelling. Its the only thing that works for me. You can still make control of the situation by waking up earlier. When I do this--(although i need a whole 30 mins earlier lol) I don't stress so much and have mornings where I stop myself from losing control and yelling at everyone. Take a few mins to just think, pray and wake up. Then a few extra mins to allow for last min chaos....make a concentrated effort to calmly get out the door in time.
    (I hope this helps! I can only manage my plan half the time though)

  9. Beautiful thoughts. How often I want to tell God how things should work! And I admit, I sorta want to come see the bridge! *duck* But it would mean I could come visit you, too!

  10. Great post Colleen . . . I read it and thought that this is EXACTLY the journey God has had me on the last year . . . the bridge is shut to traffic and I am on the other road now (His way), but for about, oh several MONTHS, I just stared at the "bridge" and complained that I could not cross . . . luckily God is so patient and loving!

  11. Got stuck at that bridge twice, once driving, once walking in May when I went to visit my friend.


    Anonymous just because I do not have any of those accounts!


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