It didn’t seem the most intelligent course of action. Then again, I didn’t think there was an option.
The Lovely Lady and I had taken a lovely drive along the mountaintops in southern Oklahoma and, realizing we were near an interesting old steel bridge, made a slight detour off the highway to get a photograph or two. I assumed we would find a place to park on the near side of the structure and would walk over it, rather than driving.
The structure is, after all, nearly one hundred years old. On the day it was completed in 1920, likely the only vehicles to cross it were a few horse drawn wagons and a Ford Model T or two.
The Model T weighed just over half a ton.
The comfy big pickup truck the Lovely Lady and I were driving tops out at just over two and a half tons. I didn’t really want to test the bridge.
It was unsettling to drive up the approach to the old metal truss bridge and realize there was no place to park. We reached the first span and I thought momentarily about backing the nearly three hundred feet to the closest turn off.
But, I’m a man. Men don’t back up when they can go forward.
“It says the substructure is rated only 2 out of 9 points—critical. ‘Structurally deficient.’ Do you think we should be doing. . .”
Her voice trailed off, as we almost crawled across the river.
The steel and concrete span held our weight, but we held our breath until we were on solid ground again.
Almost a hundred years old, the man-made bridge has very nearly reached the end of its useful life.
The thought of it makes me sad.
I’ve told you before how much I love bridges. You may already know that the walls of our den hold nothing but paintings of the wonderful structures.
I usually gravitate to the complicated designs, preferring to consider the concepts and scientific knowledge required to construct such strong, yet beautiful, framework.
This is not one of those.
The little bridge in the old watercolor is merely a solid piece of granite, hewn, not by human hands, but by the Creator Himself. The form it retains today is largely the same form it had when it was laid over the muddy brown stream nearly five-hundred years ago.
It is a real bridge, still spanning the brook it crossed all those years ago.
A solid foundation lies under each end of the clapper stone bridge. Two flat pieces of granite, possibly quarried from the same location as the arched bridge itself, have stood, unmoved, through five centuries.
The old structure has carried carts and foot traffic of all sorts—human and otherwise—safely across the brook. In the spring floods, when the muddy brown water roared and whirled beneath it, safe passage was a guarantee. Even when the flow of the brook is reduced to a trickle, the ancient piece of stone gives assurance of certain transit from one side of the little valley to the other.
But, like the much younger, fabricated bridge we crossed the other day, this bridge will one day (many years hence, one would hope) fail. The flood may wash it off its foundation, or a crack may develop, the resulting fall of the stone into the brook bringing to an end its usefulness to mankind.
Again, the thought of it makes me sad.
All that man has established will, one day, come to nothing.
All of it.
There is one Bridge, though. One Stone, laid by the hand of God Himself.
Eons ago, the words were spoken. Today, they are still true:
Look! I am laying a stone, firm and tested. It is a priceless foundation that will never fail. Whoever trusts it will never be disappointed. (Isaiah 28:16)
A Bridge, laid across the gorge of destruction by the Creator—never to be removed—never to be inspected and declared structurally deficient.
It’s not complicated. There are no angles. No girders. No need for advanced mathematics.
Just a plain Stone and an invitation to cross.
And, all we have to do is trust it to hold us.
Go ahead. Take the first step.
You can hold your breath if you need to.
He will hold us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ~ NIV)
The time worn granite clapper bridge
Spans the peat stained moorland brook,
The Dipper bobs as it hunts the midge
People cross with no second look.
Feet from ages long, long past
Have trod across the trusted stone,
The dawn and dusk have shadows cast
The sun has shone and cruel winds blown.
Men have come with brush in hand
To paint the scene through expert eye,
People followed to this desolate land
In search of something they know not why.
The rook as it sits in the solitary tree
Looks down on all that pass below,
He knows the secrets of you and me
And silently lets us cross the moorland flow.
(The Lonely Clapper ~ Anonymous)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.