Many years ago I read a book entitled The Way to the Western Sea, by David S. Lavender. It provides a fascinating account of the epic journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they led their famed expedition across the North American continent to discover an overland route to the Pacific Ocean.
Their trek was a nightmare of backbreaking toil, deep gorges which had to be crossed, and extensive travel by foot, carrying with them their supply-laden boats to find the next stream on which to make their way.
As I read of their experiences, I frequently mused, “If only there were modern bridges to span the gorges of the raging waters.” There came to my mind thoughts of magnificent bridges of our time which accomplish this task with ease: beautiful Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco fame; sturdy Sydney, Australia, Harbour Bridge; and others in many lands.
In reality, we are all travelers—even explorers of mortality. We do not have the benefit of previous personal experience. We must pass over steep precipices and turbulent waters in our own journey here on earth.
Perhaps such a somber thought inspired the poet Will Allen Dromgoole’s classic poem entitled “The Bridge Builder.”
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide—
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”
In James Dalton Morrison, ed., Masterpieces of Religious Verse (1948), 342
The message of the poem has prompted my thinking and comforted my soul, for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was the supreme architect and builder of bridges for you, for me, for all mankind. He has built the bridges over which we must cross if we are to reach our heavenly home.