Religion column: The Bridge

Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2017

By Father Jonathan J. Filkins,

During the Great Depression, there were several marvels of engineering which were erected for the benefit of all. Of particular note is the Boulder Dam, on the Arizona/Nevada border which, when completed, brought control of the rampaging Colorado River and vast amounts of water and electricity to the Southwest. At the same time, many of our citizens were put to work creating advanced infrastructure improvements to the ailing communities. In the wilderness, many of our National and State parks greatly benefited from the skills of those who toiled and those who designed their work. Yet, in spite of the sincerity and the good intentions of all concerned, these efforts were not without unintended peril. History shows us that there were nearly 100 deaths in the construction of the Dam on the Colorado. This does not include those injured, or those who later died, or those who succumbed to the elements.

In the same era, in the State of Washington, there was a pressing need to build a bridge across the Tacoma Narrows in Puget Sound. Before the construction, long distances prohibited many from easily traveling to the western part of the State and having to take the circuitous route through Olympia. By the mid-thirties, designs and funding had been approved, as work began in September of 1938, and the edifice was opened in July 1940.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Even before the opening, the bridge was given the curious moniker, “Galloping Gertie.” It soon became clear that the persistent winds had a profound effect on the structure; giving it a rhythmic sway, when the frequent winds blew.

In spite of the best intentions, the bridge was seriously flawed in the design. On November 7th, only a bit over four months after being approved for travel, it fell into the roiling waters below. During World War Two, there were serious delays in war material and personnel as a result of the collapse. This was the cost, in spite of the best plans. It was not until October of 1950, when a re-engineered bridge was installed. History has a propensity for repeating itself and we too have a propensity for repeating our own histories. Consider, in spite of our best efforts, we may have “engineered” a faulty bridge with our Creator. We may feel comfortably secure in the knowledge that our bridge was, once, on a firm foundation; being anchored upon the bedrock of surety. Perhaps our parents, family and friends aided us in our design and construction. Perhaps it was built with the best materials and intents. Perhaps it needs some updating and refinement. Like any structure, made by human hands, our internal, personal bridges need to be maintained and repaired. It may even call for the necessity of a serious structural analysis and even the potential of replacement. However, the cost to ignore this most necessary process could be catastrophic, as the abyss awaits. Let us compare our Christian needs to the onslaught of the corrosion of steel.

No matter what paint we use to cover our individual structures, it will only keep out the onslaught of worldly rust and degradation for a very brief period. Slowly, surely, the corrosions of this world eat into ourselves, perhaps accelerated by the winds of despair and the deluge of tears in our hearts. It is here we are to recognize and understand the Greatest Engineer, Jesus Christ.

For, it is as He calls us, to go forward and rebuild our relationship with Him each day; checking our Faith structures as we maintain our own bridge to His mercy.