Hanging on a wall in my office are three pictures–two pictures of covered bridges and one of a wooden cross, which hangs between the covered bridges. They are hanging on the wall that I face when I’m at my desk working, and they are in that particular spot for a reason. Why? I want to be reminded every time I glance toward the wall of my mission as a bridge builder and of Christ’s mission of love and sacrifice that we all may be restored to right relationship with God.
I was asked when I was a member of Leadership Akron’s Divine 29 class to share a picture that symbolized my life. I chose to show the covered bridge that was painted for me as a gift by a former member of the church I pastored for 18 years in Cuyahoga Falls. The painter was Sam Lichi, the father of Dr. Donald Lichi, a Christian psychologist that serves at Emerge Ministries here in Akron. The painting is not just of any bridge; rather it is the famous Everett Covered Bridge on Everett Road in Bath, Ohio.
In preparation for writing this blog I decided to do some research on this bridge and discovered a fascinating article written by Jennie Vasarhelyi, who is Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Visitor Services for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In her article she shared that the Everett Covered Bridge, which is located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, crosses Furnace Run, one of the larger tributaries of the Cuyahoga River. I enjoyed reading facts historical facts she shared about the bridge. “Everett Covered Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in Summit County. But in the 19th century, it was one of over 2,000 in Ohio, the state that led the nation in covered-bridge construction.”
Vasarhelyi then went on to recount the story of the origins of the bridge.
On a winter night in 1877, local farmers John Gilson and his wife had to cross the run when returning home from visiting friends. A winter storm had caused the waters to rise and ice to obstruct the ford they would have used. In passing around the ford, Mrs. Gilson was thrown into the stream. Mr. Gilson lost his footing, and his horse dragged him into deeper water. Mrs. Gilson was rescued, but Mr. Gilson’s body was not recovered until four days later.
The story continues that people built the bridge in response to this tragedy. In truth, the construction date is unknown and could have predated the drowning. However, clues suggest that it was built close to the time of the incident.
If this story is true, we should praise the compassion of those who built the bridge in order to prevent further tragedies like this from happening again.
The big wooden cross that hangs in my office is a reminder to me of the day God looked down on planet Earth and saw His creation drowning in the sea of sin that leads to death. Out of His heart of compassion God built a covered bridge that was covered by the blood of His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus. The horizontal beam on the Cross, upon which Christ died for my salvation and yours, is a symbol of the span or distance God bridged on our behalf.
Bishop Johnson makes an insightful statement when he says a bridge gets walked on from both sides. I sort of experienced that last evening. I confess I usually don’t read messages left on my Facebook Messenger, but last night I did just before I went to sleep. One of the messages I opened was from a former church member who chose to spend her time in letting me know exactly what she thinks of me. This is a member in whom I invested incredible time and energy, both in her as an individual and in her family, also. Well, I’m a covered bridge and that was one side I was walked on (or perhaps stomped upon would be a better term) yesterday. However, Pastor Darrick Willis went out of his way to stop and thank me for taking the time and effort to write this weekly message. He walked on the other side of the bridge, and the weight of his graciousness made my heart lighter.
So, what’s my point? First of all, thank you to Jennie Vasarhelyi for allowing me the privilege of being the recipient of your research and gifted writing. I feel more connected to the Everett Covered Bridge having read the article you penned. Second of all, take a few moments to pause and reflect on who in your life has or is a bridge for you when you feel you are hovering over troubled water. Who is ready and willing to keep you from being swallowed up in a sea of pain? Stop and write them a note, give them a call, or go to them and say thank you. Finally, think about which side of someone’s bridge you are treading upon, the side of condemnation and criticism or the side of encouragement and support.
Now, I’m signing off so I can go listen to a song that I suddenly can’t get out of my head, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”