“There’s a broken beam inside of the big big bridge
I guess that whole thing is caving in
Maybe it is time I learn how to swim
I’ll be a dolphin, I’ll be a dolphin” ~ Dolphin song by Poe
Soaking in the warm sunshine and turquoise water, my husband and I ferry toward Shell Key Preserve near Tierra Verde, FL with our Eco Tour Guide at the helm.
“Do you know the story behind this bridge?” Our guide points toward the Sunshine Skyway, a bridge that spans at least four miles, connecting St. Petersburg and Bradenton over Tampa Bay.
“In 1980, a violent wind blew a freighter off course. With impaired visibility, he crashed into a bridge pier causing 1,200 feet of the southbound span to collapse into the bay. With very low visibility, eight unsuspecting motorists had no clue they would be driving off the edge. Thirty-five people lost their lives that day.”
Surveying the 430 foot high bridge packed with vehicles. . . packed with lives, questions rise and fall like the tumultuous waves that probably swallowed them below. What flashed through their minds as they plummeted to their death? Fear? Regret? Were they right with God?
“Over there!” One of the other passengers points. Shark or dolphin, I welcome the interruption.
It is a dolphin! No, two dolphins!
The pair swim closer, surfacing near our boat several times as if to say hello. Thank you, Lord! I asked Him just this morning if we could see a dolphin or two on our excursion. 🙂
Dolphins . . . with the impressive range of different species, unique characteristics and identities, small wonder they charm so many. Not only do they appear to smile, they are also intelligent, athletic, and social aquatic mammals who can form groups of over 1,000 individuals, known as super pods.
I know, sounds like I’m going down a rabbit’s trail, but God showed me a connection between the broken bridge, dophins, and the church, so please bear with me!
With my newfound dolphin fascination, I later learned that the builders of the new Skyway Bridge strategically placed 60 foot bumpers they appropriately called ‘dolphins’ around the piers to protect the bridge’s structure.
Why do dolphins group together? Besides being social, small dolphins will gather into multi-member pods when facing predators. These groups provide protection to an animal that does not have large jaws or sharp teeth. When dolphins are together, It’s easier for dolphins to survive as they communicate or intimidate the predator.
Like our Flipper friends, the church body desperately needs each other, not only for friendship, edification and accountability, but also for protection. God never intends for us to be isolated, independent Christians.
God also desires His church to be like a bridge, anchored in Him, supported by Him. People that stand strong and steady during tumultuous times. He not only helps and blesses us when we help others connect with Him, but also blesses us when we seek to help and support each other along our earthly journey.
I know I need people in my life whom I can count on when the going gets rough. Relationships and parenting, to name a few, have festered into squalls in my past, making me feel as though those piers might collapse in a given moment. But when I am surrounded by caring people, I am bolstered with encouragement and hope. I also realize I’m not the only one struggling to stay the course. We need to gather together not only during formal worship services, but also beyond the formal settings, whether that be getting together for Sunday School, coffee, hiking together, or joining a life group at church.
Covid has disrupted all of our gatherings. It hit not long after our last move, which resulted in a year when my husband and I weren’t plugged into a life group at our new larger church. Feeling isolated, however, has given me a deeper appreciation for family and connection.
If I’m honest, there have also been times that I have put off seeking a church “life group”. Someone carelessly sharing information outside of the group; exaggerating a truth that borders on a lie; gossip; subtle manipulation to ‘promote one’s ministry’. Unfortunately, I’ve seen these within the church. All of these result in hurt, misunderstanding, anger and distrust. These are not from God, nor are they by-products of Him.
Perhaps we’re the most Christlike, however, when we choose forgiveness. Remembering that Christ has forgiven me, and seeking His help, I can also forgive whatever “grievances” I have with another, (Col. 3:13). God never said it would be easy, but it is possible. And the really scary part is that God won’t forgive me if I choose not to forgive others (Mt. 6:9-15).
Although it takes courage and resolve to seek out another ‘life group’, it’s okay to do so.
I find the following discovery interesting: “Scientists discovered that when dolphins belong to a group, nothing binds them to it in a matter of space and time, this means that they can move freely to different pods that are in their vicinity, then the movement of members is continuous. This type of social network is flat and open, and scientists found no evidence of a rigid, closed or semi-closed structure, so dolphins do not have permanent “membership” in any pod,” (Dolphin Social Structure).
This is where my analogy breaks down in part. I’m not advocating ‘church hopping’, but we’re not married to our life group either. God gives wisdom to the one who asks in faith (James 1:5-6). As God’s children, we are free in Christ (Jn. 8:36), not only free from enslavement to sin, but also free from remaining in an unhealthy group and/or church. If someone can’t control their tongue (James. 3:5), and/or doesn’t seek to love and protect others, we are free to leave and seek a healthy group. We need mature believers to come alongside new and younger believers, ones who seek to mentor and help us grow so we might function properly within the church body.
Like the wind, words come easy. But let’s seek to model Christ; forgive, and be that faithful friend who genuinely loves (1 Jn. 3:16). Who knows. . . we might just be the ‘dolphin’ bumper that prevents someone’s ‘bridge’ from collapsing, as well as saving the lives of those who travel over our life bridge.