I hadn’t thought of it in years, but this bridge prompt brought with it memories of a very special bridge from my childhood years. Turns out bridges span more than just physical distance – bridges also span time. Bridges connect the past with the present. At least that’s what a very special covered bridge does for me. Other bridges are also connectors to past eras in history.
Such is the case with the Brooklyn Bridge in a favorite movie of mine, “Kate and Leopold.” The heroine in this movie is living in modern day New York City but falls in love with a time-traveling English duke from the 1800’s. The connection between his time in history and hers? You guessed it – the Brooklyn Bridge! This makes perfect sense when you consider that the Brooklyn Bridge was built in the late 1800’s, with construction beginning in 1869 and finishing in May of 1883. It took fourteen years to build this bridge – a bridge which stands to this day – reminding me that bridging the gap and creating connections always takes time, especially if the bridge is going to stand the test of time.
Which brings me to my story of a bridge that stood the test of time and of weather for more than a century. This bridge was built in 1868 to span the East Fork of the White River in southern Indiana. As a small child, for an adventure, my grandparents would drive across this bridge with me in the back seat, totally terrified and totally delighted at the same time. Why? This was no ordinary bridge. This was a covered bridge – a long, dark, creaking, echoing, mysterious, magical bridge spanning a river I couldn’t see, once our car entered the long tunnel with the only light coming from a very distant point up ahead.
I could hear the water below but I couldn’t see it. We drove slowly and I watched closely out my window, waiting for the one exception to this totally enclosed experience – “the peephole.” That was my name for a small section of missing boards from the side wall of this covered bridge, which provided my only glimpse of the river beneath us. I always waited expectantly, as I did not want to miss the peephole and the short-lived view it provided me of the outside world.
After what seemed a lengthy time in the dark tunnel of the bridge, we would emerge out into the sunlight on the other side and I would wait eagerly for the return trip, when we would again have to cross the covered bridge. (this time the peephole would be on the other side, but I was prepared for that and sat on the other side of the back seat) I did not want to miss the peephole, but there was little danger of that because we always drove so slowly across this century old bridge, with every timber of its floor creaking and cracking, echoing long and loud in the space the roof and sides covered so carefully and so completely.
Such are my childhood memories of the Bells Ford Covered Bridge in Jackson County, Indiana. This bridge is no longer there. I wish I had gone back to visit this old covered bridge before she was taken away for good. First, they made a road around her, when she could no longer support traffic, then a storm took her out for good. My only memories of her are the memories of a child. Maybe it’s better that way – that I remember her as the magnificent, mysterious, magical structure that she was, than to see her in her days of demise and disuse, no longer useful, no longer needed.
However, that covered bridge still serves as a connection for me – a connection to my childhood and to memories of my grandparents and those exciting trips we took across the covered bridge. I always wondered, why cover a bridge? Now I know the answer, which is, to increase their lifespan. An uncovered wooden bridge lasted about twenty years. A covered bridge could last one hundred years or more, which proved to be true – hence my childhood covered bridge experience.
Something interesting I discovered about my childhood bridge is that at one time, it was a toll bridge. Fees ranged from thirty cents for a six-horse vehicle to three cents for a single horseman or a single footman. Cattle and horses were three cents each, while hogs and sheep were charged at the rate of one and one-half cents each. Safe passage over the river came with a cost. But before the turn of the century, the tolls were abolished and travel across the Bells Ford Covered Bridge became free for everyone – people and animals alike.
That just seems right, doesn’t it? After all, a bridge’s sole purpose is to provide safe passage, connection between two places, to stand in the gap – or more accurately, to lay down over the gap in order to make a way where there was no way previously. That’s what bridges do. They make a way.
That’s what Jesus did for me and for you when He came here. He made a way for us to be connected to our Creator, God, by laying down His life, thus becoming our bridge to God. And Jesus already paid my toll and your toll, so we are guaranteed safe passage and it’s free. (but I already wrote about that in post “the burning and building of bridges”)
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6)
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom (paid our toll to cross the bridge) for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
sincerely, Grace Day