Crossing the Bridge
My daughter and I, excited to be together for the day, stepped out of the car and walked to the overlook. We joined tourists admiring the bay, the bridge, and the cityscape while clicking shutters and posing for selfies. We took pictures with the city in the background, then pictures with the bridge behind us. Finally, we started the long walk. It was a sunny day, not too breezy; the bridge was busy, but not crowded.
Every time I drive over the Golden Gate Bridge I see people crossing on foot, casually enjoying the scenery and the walk; they silently summon me to do likewise, to park my car and stroll the length of the bridge. I’ve long desired to cross the bridge on foot, and my daughter’s sixteenth birthday gave me the opportunity. For each of my children’s birthdays, I take them on a date. These aren’t extravagant affairs; sometimes we go out for lunch, other times we go on a hike.
We’ve gone bowling, to the theater, and fishing. Nothing fancy, but these dates create space for conversations, memories, and time together—alone. I relish these dates; the luxury of individual time with each child is rare. For my daughter’s sixteenth, I wanted to do something that would remain in our memories, but would also keep the budget in check. Walking the Golden Gate seemed like just the thing.
From end to end, the 3.4 mile walk is manageable in an afternoon. My daughter and I enjoyed the scenery, the sea lions in the water below, surfers, sailboats, tugboats, and the bridge itself. It is a wonder of structural engineering and a national landmark. Built from 1933 to 1937, it was then the longest suspension bridge in the world. Half a million vehicles crossed the bridge in 1937; now thirty-nine million vehicles cross annually.
Crossing the bridge on foot isn’t an unusual activity; the bridge swarms with tourists from the far corners of the globe. The idea wasn’t to do something novel. The idea was to do something neither of us had done before, to do it together, to pause for a day, and to savor time with each other—time needed before my daughter grows and crosses the bridge that takes her to adulthood.
Designed to provide passage over something which otherwise would be difficult to cross, bridges are helpful and necessary. As we walked the Golden Gate, my mind pictured the bridge as a metaphor. The designer of any bridge has a purpose in mind. My purpose is God-given. My task is to carry my children from the shores of youth to the shores of maturity. Obstacles abound; I sense hidden pitfalls and lurking temptations. How can I help my children cross the chasm of devilish dangers they confront each day? How can I help them traverse the rough waters of the world? How can I build a bridge for my children—a bridge from childhood to adulthood?
The Golden Gate Bridge required eighty thousand miles of galvanized steel for the main cables, and the structure contains over three hundred thousand cubic yards of concrete. Six hundred thousand rivets hold each tower together.1 A project of this magnitude requires years of planning, design, and effort. Building a child’s life also takes effort and planning, and the project is infinitely more important than building a bridge. I’m overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. All dads, who are honest with themselves and the world, will confess the same.
My daughter and I, upon reaching the far end of the bridge, took more pictures then started back across. As we did, she slid her hand into mine, and we walked, hand in hand, most of the way toward our car. My walk through life with my children should be like this, hand in hand, over the rough seas of the world below, talking, being together, one life influencing the next. Our conversations on the bridge varied. We spoke of the scene around us, the bridge, the sea lions, and the Frappuccino we would buy for the ride home.
We were enjoying the day, but we had no heart-to-heart talk during our walk across the bridge. Many days are this way as I raise my children. Not every conversation is profound, but every talk, every tickle, every bike ride, and every book we read together is a rivet, a cable, a piece of the bridge. Bridge building as a father takes time and effort. Each book I read one more time, each bike ride I take when I’m tired, each time I get up from the couch in order to get down on the ground and tickle is a feat of fatherly engineering.
On the Golden Gate, I pondered the bridge metaphor. My bridge building is fun; I enjoy my children and our time together, but I also realize my ability to carry them across life’s most dangerous waters is inadequate. My children need to cross from darkness to light, from death to life. The bridge needed to span the chasm of eternal flames is not a bridge which can be built by tickles and bike rides. What am I to do? I need a bridge that I cannot build, a spiritual bridge, a bridge that goes deep into the soul and discerns thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Long ago, the parents of Israel needed a bridge for their children. Poised to cross the Jordan River, they wondered how they were to carry the next generation safely into the Kingdom of God. How were they to teach, train, and disciple their children in such a way that godless nations would not gain influence over them? Today, I face a different landscape but the same difficulties. I need a bridge—a means to help young hearts flee the temptations of the flesh and cling to the hope of the cross. The only bridge able to carry my children is the same tried and true bridge that has carried a countless number of souls into eternal joy—the Word of God. This is the only bridge a Christian parent needs. It’s the one the Bridge Builder designed.
Scripture is what God commanded the parents of Israel to use. He told them to teach “these words” (Deuteronomy 6:6) as they carried on their daily routines. Training my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) is nothing less than sharing the Word of God with them. This makes the task, a task at first glance overwhelming, much more manageable. I have all I need for success; I have the Word—a bridge from foolish to wise, from darkness to light, from death to life. If it were my job to build a bridge over the choppy waters of this world, I would fail miserably. But my job is to use the bridge already built, the Word already given, the bridge built to carry souls to Christ, the Word designed to give faith and life (Romans 10:17).
Though my daughter and I were stuck in traffic on the way home, we were content because the crowded freeway gave us more time for conversation. When we arrived home, dinner was waiting as my wife had cooked my daughter’s favorite meal (another birthday tradition), and another cable in the parenting bridge.
I’ll keep building this bridge, along with my wife, for our children, but more important than dates and dinners, we will deliver God’s Word to our children—His bridge to give them grace and faith which will carry them safe to eternal shores.
David West is passionate about the Gospel and the next generation. You can learn about him and read more of his writing at www.davidsinkwell.wordpress.com and www.bereanschoolhouse.com
Copyright, 2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, Summer 2015. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.