Ken Baldwin was twenty-eight years old, and severely depressed back in August of 1985 when he decided to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge (According to a New Yorker article). “I wanted to disappear,” he said. “So the Golden Gate was the spot. I’d heard that the water just sweeps you under.” Walking onto the bridge, he counted to ten, froze, counted to ten again, and this time jumped over the side.
Baldwin is one of the few people to jump off the bridge and survive, so we know what he was thinking at the time. “I still see my hands coming off the railing,” Baldwin recalls, and “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”
People who jump off the bridge, not surprisingly, often find themselves suffering from “tunnel vision.” They only see their troubles, their depression, and fail to see anything bright or hopeful in their lives. They focus on escaping their problems, and the edge of the bridge offers them a path to that destination…or so they think. One jumper left a suicide note with the simple message: “Absolutely no reason except I have a toothache.”
The season of Lent, that period of time between Ash Wednesday (February 14th this year) and Easter (April 1st), is a season of introspection, and a time when we sometimes give up something bad for us (candy, cigarettes, etc.) or start practicing something good for us (praying regularly, exercising every morning, etc.). Lent is a season for change, but maybe instead of embracing superficial changes, it ought to be a season of significant shifts in our way of living. And what’s more significant than a shift in attitude? Maybe Lent is a good time to replace our “tunnel vision” with a wider perspective. Instead of leaping into despair, or the promise of a quick and easy solution, we should hunker down and face life head on. Don’t give up, but plan and dream. Don’t go over the edge, but courageously resist and hold on. As the Apostle Paul advises: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NRSV).
The French dramatist and novelist, Tristan Bernard, was arrested by Gestapo agents along with his wife, and interned at the Drancy deportation camp. The agents were at his door to take them away, when Tristan turned to his weeping wife and said: “Don’t cry, we were living in fear, but from now on we will live in hope.” This seems like an excellent idea for Lent.
Maybe, as Ken Baldwin discovered when he jumped off the bridge, everything in our life that we think is unfixable is totally fixable—if we don’t leap into despair. Maybe Tristan Bernard is right, and now is the time of hope. Maybe Paul is right and we should stand firm with faith and courage. And maybe this Lent is a good time to take this non-leap of faith.
Yours in Christ;