Faith — is the Pierless Bridge

by Elouise

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Am I lost? Wandering? Emily Dickinson’s poem has been on my mind for the last two months. Here it is, with my interpretive comments.

Faith – is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not –
Too slender for the eye

It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side –
It joins – behind the Veil

To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

c. 1864

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

I remember a song we used to sing in church, always with gusto and certainty. It was about impossibilities. With confident voices, we sang about faith laughing at impossibilities and crying out (on faith’s behalf), ‘It shall be done!’ No shrinking violets need apply.

Emily’s poem seems on the far side of that song. Is it? I don’t think so. Both are about faith. Yet Emily’s rendition comes closer to my lived experience.

Emily paints a moving picture of an impossible Pierless Bridge stretching out, with no horizon in sight but the sky and water. It doesn’t seem to have visible supports or buttresses. Instead, it seems to stretch out not in front of me, but with me, step by step, as I make my pierless way across the water.

Here faith is like the invisible thread in The Princess and the Goblin. It supports my way across the water toward an invisible goal. My feet vacillate, uncertain where to go. I’m far out from the shore, maybe not far to go. But I don’t know how much farther, or what I’ll find when I reach the goal.

Boldness and courage seem paramount. Closing my eyes, I feel my way along. Not with my hands, but through the bare soles of my feet connecting with what must surely be a mammoth construction of steel, boulders and cement. How could there not be a pier?

I open my eyes, hoping for a glimpse of the goal, but see nothing ahead and nothing behind. Even more distressing, what’s supporting me is no larger and no more visible than one slender, fragile thread of a spider web.

Closing my eyes, I grope along, too far out to turn back. I don’t feel bold or courageous. The way is precarious. I’m full of questions  and more than a bit of doubt.

I don’t have a map or a friendly GPS system to let me know when to leave one foot behind and shift my weight onto the other foot. I just know I’m being drawn and supported by something or someone greater than myself.

Perhaps this journey is about strengthening my vacillating faith. Then again, the point may not be my faith, whether weak or bold. In fact, I can’t believe that by the time I’ve arrived at the goal, my faith will be strong.

It seems this journey isn’t all about me.

Before my faith and before my birth there was something else. I imagine the Source of my life greeting me from within the Veil to which Faith leads me. Here is the One who birthed me. The One who boldly and courageously watches for me from the other side of my human life, spinning out as needed a fragile yet steel-buttressed thread of Faith—my Creator’s Faith in me. Faith that leads me home, just as I am and yet will be.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 June 2016
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