My favorite part of the drive from Philadelphia to my home in Virginia is that stretch of highway Route 13 along the Eastern Shore between Pocomoke and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. I always think about what life was like in that section of the state some 60 years ago before the Bridge Tunnel was built. It captivates my imagination to wonder what kind of work people did when they were restricted to that narrow peninsula? What hope was there for any children growing up there for a life different than what their parents and grandparents had lived before them? I have heard similar stories by children growing up in the coal-mining areas in western Pennsylvania. For many there was never much hope that their lives would ever be anything different than what they saw in front of them. One such “Horatio Alger” story is that of Michael Cardone Sr., founder of several businesses and someone who left the coal-mining life of his family to become a successful entrepreneur (see this brief story – http://articles.philly.com/1994-10-22/news/25873384_1_auto-parts-distribution-centers-cardone-industries).
As for the Eastern Shore, we now know the rest of the story. According to their own website (http://www.cbbt.com/history.html) for thirty years a ferry shuttled passengers and vehicles back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay, until a study was commissioned and the feasibility of such a Bridge-Tunnel project was explored, and construction recommended. Following its opening on April 15, 1964, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was selected one of the “Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World” in a worldwide competition that included more than one hundred major projects. This project changed life forever in this formerly isolated part of the country. If I was growing up in such a place, could I have even imagined a life greater than what I saw before me?
These ideas of faith and hope remain abstract thoughts unless they are injected into actual circumstances. Michael Cardone Sr. overcame history and family tradition to believe in confident faith that there was more to life than digging for coal. His talents and ingenuity led him to find success in rebuilding automotive parts years before anyone saw this as a viable business.
When we think of hope, it seems to operate apart from anything else. We hope in something or someone, and generally are disappointed when our hope-filled desires are unmet. These things never truly satisfy or fulfill us. Yet hope is critical to living a full Christian life and faith is the antecedent. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith in God being God and His capacity to fulfill His promises, hope languishes and despair overtakes it. Faith is the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). With hope we can see the future even though the present circumstances shroud us with doubt. Hope is a bridge to the future like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was a bridge to prosperity for those living on the Eastern Shore.
Paul the Apostle wrote of the generation of hope in Romans chapter 5, and it sounds like a God-birthed, pain-staking process.: “Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God’s approval, and His approval creates hope. This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us” (Romans 5:1-5 GNT).
God’s plan is character development, which allows us to stand strong against the withering winds and waves of loss, failure and disappointments. God is working to develop “passionate patience” in us (that is Romans 5:4 in “The Message” version). If we compare Romans 5:4 in two translations (the GNT above with NRSV), then we see that endurance produces (God’s approval or character); and (God’s approval or character) produce hope. God approves of the development of a Christ-like character in us, and this keeps us hopeful for the future. That is His mission for us here on earth, while we wait for that final step to be taken through the curtain into His eternal presence.
This kind of hoped-for future does not disappoint (Romans 5:5) because the Holy Spirit reminds us of what the present and future are all about. It’s all about God, about being loved and about knowing that for us there is a hope and a future with Christ (Jeremiah 29:11). So God’s work of developing character in us is our bridge to a hope-filled life. And Christ has already paid the toll. No EZ-Pass needed.