On the bridge

A year of Selah and awe

Hailey Echan , Editor-in-Chief

Hailey stopping for a quick photo while crossing a bridge on Colchuck Lake Trail. (Courtesy of Hailey Echan)

We are all headed somewhere. Most of us at this point in our lives are headed towards a degree. Now, don’t get me wrong, that degree is simply a launch point for several other directions that we all will scatter towards once we leave this university. But for now, in this moment, we are all headed towards something similar on similar trails.

Speaking of trails, I’ve got a friend who is a nature enthusiast. We have that in common, but she takes a much more poetic approach and I’ve learned a lot from her. One of those things being the right way to go over a bridge when in the mountains. Whether driving or hiking or whatever the preferred mode of traveling may be, she is adamant about pausing in the middle of a bridge whenever we come across one. This stemmed from a specific bridge in the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon that is built over a river. This bridge is placed immediately after a corner that most people usually speed through. She started this tradition as a reminder to pause and observe the beauty of movement from a point of being still.

As we remained floating above the rush of white rapids, we were given the opportunity to simply sit in awe of the natural patterns of the river water.

Now, whenever I come across a bridge in the mountains, I take it as a sign to be still and breathe deep. There is no denying the beauty of a snapshot of mountain scenery. But what about the beauty of movement within the trees? On the water? Between the rockslides? Stopping in the middle of a bridge allows us to be still while everything else continues to move. There is a lesson to be learned in the stillness of mountains, and there are many lessons to be learned in the natural chaos of leaves rustling in the wind and rocks tumbling down the slope.

As we step into 2022, the movement isn’t going to stop. The cessation of chaos isn’t scheduled for anytime soon. This year is an alluring chance to choose to step back and observe as the rest of the world continues to rustle in the wind. This isn’t synonymous to no longer participating in life. In fact, I would argue this is mutually exclusive from that.

By pausing for a moment to appreciate our surroundings, we are participating in a way we haven’t before. In a way that is caring to those around us, loving to ourselves, and in a way that shows thankfulness towards the life we’re living.

The act of slowing down is more than a different way of participating in life, it’s a way of leaning more into the heart of God. While there are several points in the Bible that allude to or mention the power of pausing, we see the significance mostly in the Psalms. The Hebrew word Selah is mentioned over thirty times in Psalms. Scholars have discussed the contextual meaning of this word for centuries, but it is most commonly understood to be a musical term that marks a space for a pause.

Psalms is mostly a book of praise, but even when praising and proclaiming the goodness of God, it is clearly important to take time to breathe. When reading Psalms, Selah is a sign to take a moment to pause and reflect. Just as a bridge–according to my friend–is a sign to take a moment to stop and soak in the movement.

The last few years have felt like nothing but chaos for me. Non-stop movement. Sometimes forward, sometimes backward, but often, I had the notion I was running in place–not going anywhere but still unable to pause.

As we all continue on this trail of doing life in the midst of a global pandemic, political unrest, harsh division, and a thousand other struggles and opportunities being thrown at us, what would it look like if we viewed 2022 not as another year to push through and survive; but rather, a space to experience the life we are so desperately striving to live. A place to learn from hardships and soak in the blessings.

There is no denying some things need to change. There is also no denying the wonder that exists in our everyday lives. Sometimes, the wonder is a little harder to spot, but it’s still there. It becomes abundantly more clear once we take the time to pause for a second and learn from moments of movement around us.

Bridges are often considered to be a continuation of movement; a way to connect two pieces of land so that motion doesn’t have to cease. What if we changed our outlook? Bridges can be used to promote more movement, and they can be used to inspire pause, to inspire Selah.

I am choosing to walk into 2022 with the perspective of walking across a bridge. I’ll get to where I need to be and I’ll accomplish what I need to accomplish and the world will keep turning, so why not pause and be in awe of the movement for a moment? Why not choose Selah for a moment?