The Niagara River flows from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario and on it is a fairly large island and one of the wonders of the world, Niagara Falls. Above the falls, the river is navigable and serene, but below the falls the river is practically impossible to cross or navigate without great difficulty. The Niagara Gorge, as the river is known below the falls, is narrow with steep rock canyon features causing dangerous rough-water rapids and in the middle of it all, a huge natural whirlpool where the water rapidly slows before entering Lake Ontario. I’ve visited Niagara Falls several times on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the river.
I heard a story the other day that I had not thought of for years, how the first suspension bridge across the gorge got started. The first thing that has to happen in starting a suspension bridge is a cable has to be anchored on both shores. The 225-foot shear cliff canyon walls of the gorge made it impossible to simply boat one across; a rifle shot was too far at 800 feet; a canon shot, too dangerous; and in January 1848, there were no aircraft yet. The rather bizarre solution arose from a kite-flying contest with a cash prize for the first boy to successfully land his kite on the opposite side of the gorge. Hundreds of boys made the pilgrimage. Nearly three weeks into the contest, a 15-year-old American, Holman Walsh, successfully accomplished the task with his kite, named the Union.
With a simple kite string, engineers started pulling larger and larger cords, then ropes, and then steel cables across the gorge to begin constructing the bridge. Chief engineer Charles Ellet Jr. wrote to the local newspaper, “Dear Sirs, I raised my first little wire cable on Saturday, and anchored it securely both in Canada and New York. Today (Monday) I tightened it up, and suspended below it an iron basket which I had caused to be prepared for this purpose, and which is attracted by pulleys playing along the top of the cable. In this little machine I crossed over to Canada, exchanging salutations with our friends there, and returned again, all in fifteen minutes. The wind was high and the weather cold, but yet the trip was a very interesting one to me -- perched up as I was 240 feet above the rapids, and viewing from the center of the river one of the sublimest prospects which nature has prepared on this globe of ours. My little machine did not work as smoothly as I wished, but in the course of this week I will have it so adjusted that anybody may cross in safety.” He did and people couldn’t wait to take the trip.
[Luke 16:19-31] Since the disobedient act of Adam and Eve in the garden, sin has separated mankind from God. As the rich man discovered at the end of his life a great chasm was between he and the comforts of God. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the canyon that separates us from God is impossible to cross on our own. We must find a way to build a bridge of reconciliation to the grace God has to offer. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus gave His life as a ransom, dying for the sins of the world, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus is our bridge back to Gods’ loving mercy. “But Tom, I don’t understand the Bible and I probably never will.” The bridge over the Niagara Gorge wasn’t complete with a kite string. Take what you do understand and build on it. God loves you and will help you build a bridge back to him.
Thomas W. Bonham is an associate minister with the Floresville Church of Christ. Email him at email@example.com. Find his column on his blog at http://wilsoncountynews.com.
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