“Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down…Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind.” (1970) Bridge Over Troubled Water Recorded by: Simon & Garfunkel Composer: Paul Simon
As I gladly munch down on the left-over Halloween candy, I am looking out my studio window spying the very first turning leaves on my street. Although faint, they are there. They lack the brilliance of the stop-sign red maple leaves I loved in my Buffalo, NY days, but they do testify of the season in Texas.
Up north foliage-hunters are taking in the unmistakable aroma in the autumn air, as well as taking to the roads gazing at the mix of hues splashing across the wooded landscape. Depending upon where you are you just might be on an old country road, with all its twists and turns, where after a few curves in the stretch you might just roll the tires up close and personal to something like this.
My fiance, at the time, took this shot as we were overjoyed at the find deep in the woods of Western New York.
If you discover one of these in my home state of Texas it would not only be rare, but an oddity at that. In fact, in the U.S. where covered bridges are not long gone, they will be unless a local proactive community protects them. Such a lovely view of a time way beyond the scope of our rear-view mirror.
Most were built like this one, humble and narrow, as the horse & buggies and early automobiles were constructed. Most were designed to accommodate only one buggy, or car of its day going one way. And finally, most all were covered with roofs, some shingled while others were tar layers or tin. The majority of old covered bridges in the U.S. were built between 1825-1875. The traveler of yesteryear would tell you the reason they were covered was to shelter the rider, along with the horse yoked to the wagon, buggy, or stagecoach. After all, it was welcomed during storms when pounding country roads. In the heat of summer, it was a natural bull-run and shade. The breeze would blow from one end to the other while the roof made for a cooling rest stop. However, even though the functionality existed, the builders of that time would explain the purpose for roof and walls in another way. The bridges were covered to protect the wooden floor of the bridge from rain, snow and ice, keeping it from water logging and weather-rot. And THAT’S why you don’t see them much in the dry state of Texas.
If you ever approach an old covered bridge, I suggest parking off to the side to take a leisurely walk through the old rustic structure. Much like an antique barn, it has that old weathered lumber smell floating through it. Look up. Often birds have their nests in its low hanging rafters. You can hear your footsteps greeting the wooden planks with all its creaks, pops, and knocks. Examine the railings, the boarded walls, and beams as you run your hand over the aged grain of the timber. Peek through the occasional knotholes at the water beneath. Listen for the wind as it communes with the long-standing structure. Its breezes have been whistling through the old woody frame for over one hundred years or more, sharing tales of older times. Close your eyes and hear the echoed wooden wagon wheels against the floor of thick lumber. Listen for the hooves prancing on the planks from one end to the other. Feel the vibration from a 1918 milk truck slowly making its way through the antique wooden housing. It’s a very unique experience.
When we were there, I couldn’t help but think about the various travelers who graced the old covered bridge throughout the last century. Surely there was a doctor in a Model-T on his way to deliver a baby at the next farm beyond the creek. Then there’s the rancher’s wagon with a new plow horse in tow rumbling the timber slabs. Back in the day, a circuit preacher on horseback clopping through for services at the Methodist Church, after closing services at the Baptist congregation earlier the same Sunday. I can imagine, a farmer on an iron-wheeled tractor pulling a flatbed wagon of freshly harvested hay popping the timber floor. There had to be someone’s great-great-grandparents who raced to the covered bridge during a stormy honeymoon night on the way to the threshold of a new house. Many, many lives. Many, many stories. Many, many who have gone before us to their resting place.
One caution here. Today’s vehicles are much heavier, much bulkier than what the old bridge was built to accommodate. Some may have warning signs at the entrance displaying a weight and height limit for those who wish to drive across. Some SUV’s may be too wide. Some trucks, too tall for the rafters. Also, be aware, the buggy wheel of the times never had to worry about flat tires. Our trek across may find loosened carpenter’s nails. Due to weathering and age, many pegs and nails find their way back to which they were driven. There’s much for a driver to consider.
My picture was taken around 2007. Although a few years have gone by, I often run across the digital shot in my computer files. When I do, without fail, a warm flush runs through my veins. A smile visits my face each time my eyes land on it. I can’t help but wonder if it’s still there. A simple brush fire can consume its aged lumber within minutes.
At the time I didn’t think of it, but life tends to point to teachable moments at the most simplest of objects. The old covered bridge is very much a photo of my personal life, my personal faith.
As life would have it, my faith in Jesus is a narrow path. The objector might point out the age of the object of my faith. To that person, Jesus only lived to be a 33 year old man, some 2,000 years ago, in a far away sliver of a weakened country ruled by a dominating Emperor in Rome. At first glance through the knothole of history, it would seem old, ancient, and rickety. That one without faith may see Jesus as unable to hold up the weight faith requires, much like the old bridge. My agnostic friends and family would say having faith in a 2,000 year old Jesus doesn’t yield much. After all, to trust an old, seemingly fragile bridge, accompanied by all the poundage of the day, might very well deliver a carpenter’s nail in your tire, slowing the progress to the other side. The Apostle Peter might come up out of the water to warn of the winds which shake and rattle the structure on the journey across. All are true, fair considerations. Still, it’s not a bridge too far. Besides, isn’t that what faith is? Believing on something without hard evidence, or even unseen would be a biblical description.
Yet, the coin flips to another view etched in metal. The ancient, rickety, weathered, narrow covered bridge is the perfect picture of faith. (If you need to scroll up to take a closer look at the photo, now’s the time. It’s okay, I’ll meet you back here. I’ll be waiting for you.)
My atheist and agnostic friends, who I dearly love, should consider why I stopped to absorb the framed structure. The detail, the craftsmanship, the engineering from someone who went before me, prepared it for me, knowing I would arrive at the entrance in due time is a fascinating thought. That mirrors nicely the One known as The Great I Am.
Jesus makes a way over trouble waters on multi-layered scales.
Jesus makes a way, bridging, connecting my unholy state to His righteousness.
Jesus made His way narrow. In order to tread through it, you will need to unload.
Jesus made the way to be solo, only one-way. Nobody goes through as a duet, trio or quartet. Owning humility is the entrance toll. Pride must be shed. All must leave behind their wide vehicle.
Jesus made a way with low hanging rafters. To be in Him, bow the head, the knee.
Jesus made a way with shelter. He shields from conjured destructive elements.
Jesus made a way with hardships expected. Life in faith will have its rusty nails.
Jesus made a way to new birth, new teachings, new crops to harvest, new flock, new home with an everlasting spiritual marriage partner, and a new promised resting place.
Jesus made a way with old creaking planks, supported by The Rock Of Ages beneath.
As for me, I drive across this faith bridge daily. Challenging at times? Yes, but He said it would be so long ago. The victory trophy comes at my last stride.
Non-believers will claim my faith is a crutch. I say it’s a bridge, weatherproofed with fuel for the race.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10 (NAS)