The Bridge…par 4

The innocuous looking little bridge, pictured below is in fact one of the most famous bridges in the entire golfing world. It measures a whopping 30 feet in length is 8 feet wide and 6 feet in height.  Why is it so famous? Because it provides the only dry passage across the Swilken Burn—the brook, or some might call it a rivulet, that meanders across the 1st and 18th fairways of the Old Course of Saint Andrews Royal and Ancient Club, the undisputed home of present day Golf and it’s governing body.  Originally built over 700 years ago, it has served everyone from sheepherders to kings wishing to get across the burn.  There is only one way to achieve dry passage across the divide…the Bridge!

Extra Golf - Swilcan Bridge 3 a790fd3f-c597-4588-a944-47be367bb32f-2060x1373                         Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Since the founding of the Saint Andrews Royal and Ancient Club in 1754 the Swilken Bridge has been the only logical means of crossing the burn from tee to green for untold numbers of golfers.   In addition, as you can see above, the bridge has also become a podium for many world ranked Professional Golfers to bid their final adieu to the game they have loved so much.

Confession – this particular piece of sharing has been percolating in my soul for some time. The pull on my heart, the significance to me of the Swilken Bridge, and why I have always been so fascinated by it, did not begin to take form until recently when my wife, Suzanne, and I were having a discussion on a totally disassociated subject. During that discussion I made a comment which I thought was thoroughly logical and on point. Her response to my observation caught me by surprise and generated a bit of confusion.

She said “…You’ve got a gap in your bridge.” What she was saying is “…I heard your thought but the dots are not connecting yet. You need to provide me with more input if you expect me to embrace your thought as valid for me.”  In essence she was saying “…build me a better bridge.”

It was then that a new appreciation began to form about bridges in general and the Swilken Bridge in particular. There are many thousands and perhaps millions of bridges in existence across the world but this one simple bridge somehow stands out to me and then the pieces began to fall in place.

Two descriptors continue to stand out as I look at the Swilken Bridge, it’s simplicity, and it’s trustability. Aesthetics were not in the mix when the bridge was built. It had only one purpose…to help people get to the other side. Yet it is world famous. In addition, you can look at it and instantaneously intuit that it is, to this day, sturdy and can be trusted. The witness of it’s trustability lies in the fact that it is still standing and in regular use over 700 years after it was built.

Something else dawned on me as I looked at this little bridge. It has similar characteristics to a bridge that was built over 1300 years before—roughly 2,000 years ago. Similar to the Swilken Bridge it has been used throughout its history by everyone from shepherds to kings.  And, like the Swilken Bridge, it is the only means by which an individual can get from one side of the span it covers to the other. It is also considered by many to be the most beautiful bridge in existence. The guy who built the bridge was a carpenter, a stonemason really.

There are no ornate pillars adorning his bridge but there is an absolute solid framework supporting the bridge and as such it is totally trust worthy for those choosing to follow him across his bridge to where he eagerly awaits to welcome it’s travelers to the other side. It took him 33 years to build and cost him his life.  But as he said many times throughout his life, “it was a labor of love” even though many people hated him for it. He finished the task and in so doing became “The Greatest Bridge builder/Gap Filler” that has ever or will ever live. He built a bridge to fill the gap between this life, as we know it, to life everlasting with him.

I don’t believe I will ever be able to look at the Swilken bridge again without experiencing a gentle reminder of the man who built the bridge over which I will cross into eternity.

To quote a very dear friend of mine “…Thank you Jesus.”

P.S. A number of years ago, I was asked, during a seminar in which I was participating, by the seminar host… “How would you describe what you do?”  At the moment it felt to me like a “stump the stars” question.  Fortunately I was sitting several chars away from the moderator so my turn to talk would not come for few moments which gave me some time to legitimately consider his question.  My response was “…I help people build bridges to new understanding.”  That comment planted the seed for what would later became the name of our company…“Bridge Builders.”

The apostle Paul challenged us to look around and notice all of the indicators leading to our maker.  I hope that in some way this post will shine a light on the bridge Jesus built for us.  LG


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