“…They agreed that they were no more than foreigners and pilgrims here on earth. And obviously people who talk like that are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had been thinking of the country they came from, they would have found a way to go back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland..."
Pilgrim Road Blog Photo
Friday, October 3, 2014
31 Days of Courage: The Courage to Build Bridges
In the 19th century, bridge building was deadly
business. It’s still feat of human
endeavor that could blow my head off if I think too hard about it.
Of all the bridges I’ve personally experienced, the Brooklyn
Bridge is my favorite. Spanning the East
River from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights, that monument to form and
function was erected not only with granite and steel, but with perseverance and
The bridge’s construction took 14 years. In 1883 folks began crossing that marvel that
engaged the sweat and muscle of 600 workers with a price tag of $15 million
(more than $320 million in today’s dollars). At least two dozen people died in
the process. One of the first to lose
his life on the project was the original designer, John Augustus Roebling. Before even one steel cable came out of the
box, Roebling had his foot crushed by a
boat while taking compass readings along the river. He died of tetanus 3 weeks later, leaving his
son to carry on.
Immigrants did much of the dirty work of putting down a solid
foundation for the bridge. They were
nicknamed Sandhogs. In a process I
don’t fully understand, but which sounds simply awful, workers excavated the
riverbed in massive wooden boxes called caissons. These airtight chambers kept
water out and pumped air in to enable the excavation of debris by the bridge
builders. Many died or were debilitated by way of “Caisson’s
Disease”, known in the vernacular as “the bends”. Others perished in explosions, fires and
conventional construction accidents.
So where am I going with this?
Most of us have some kind of relational brokenness in our
lives. I’d wager a stamp that that
particular kind of trial is the most painful of them all, since we are at our
core relational beings.
And there’s a sort of unique fear that accompanies messed up
connections with the people we love. I
can’t pinpoint what it is, but you know it if you’ve lived it. Often times we want to make our way back to
the folks who have hurt us, or we have hurt, but we fear the cost. Bridge building can precipitate great pain as
we excavate the debris of pride and unforgiveness or let down the walls that
protect us from rejection in order to make a foundation for restoration.
But then, when the crossing is made, there it is: the beauty of the bridge. Then, life can be lived there. Fellowship and friendship and hope can move
back and forth across the hard won path made not from steel and granite, but
from the courage to feel the pain and die the death for the joy that will
We Smitties are Simon and Garfunkel fans, especially on long
car rides. That duo’s classic song,
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” never gets old for me.
When you're weary, feeling small When tearsare
in your eyes, I will dry them all I'm on your side, when times get rough and friends just can't be found Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me
down Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me
I confess that whenever I hear Art Garfunkel’s angelic voice
chanting that verse I find myself in tears.
The One and Only, He didn’t just build a bridge, He laid down to be the
“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never
sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.” 1 Peter 3:18
His great passion from the beginning was to bring us back
across the chasm of separation in to the warm embrace of a good Father. (Mysterious, but compellingly good). He stands as the greatest bridge builder of
all time, the bravest of the brave.
I continue on to grapple with the towering truth that He
who was most courageous of all cheers us on in our puny efforts to be brave.
There’s a letter I
have to write again…it’s another pylon for a bridge I’ve hoped to build for
years, without much success. It’s just
this…that even if the person we’re trying to reach on the other side doesn’t
build back, we cannot lose. The very
effort to reach the bedrock, to stretch the cable, to remove the obstacle,
makes us more what we were created to be: loving, relational beings with a
destiny and a future hope that no deep river can constrain. But it will cost us.
I can’t tell you how many times I have crossed the Brooklyn
Bridge in the car, on foot, and best of all, on my bicycle. That highway of alliance, commerce,
recreation and interaction has benefited millions of people since it was
completed in 1883. I’m so grateful for
the courageous folks who struggled, some to the point of death to provide that
How much more ought we to have the courage to build bridges
that mend, heal and deliver.