I cringed internally as I approached the massive, limestone structure. The Natural Bridge Historic Landmark in Glasgow, Virginia, was impressive at night. But here, in the stark, honest light of day, its size and bare-ness were just disturbing. What kind of force scoured that massive hole through a rock that has otherwise survived centuries of Nature’s weathering, eroding influences? A river persistently flowing, as the guide suggested? I don’t think so! That literal monolith stood like a visual punctuation, illustrating that cataclysmic moment in the Old Testament when “…the fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11b).
|Natural Bridge, Glasgow, VA|
It was a natural wonder in itself, how we came to be actually having a family vacation this year, the years of a single family Summer plan were seeming to become a forgotten thing – ’empty-nesters’, a tag we were already donning. Yet somehow, in the midst of study abroad program, youth mission’s trip, and relocating graduates & undergraduates, a hybrid vacation package emerged — A free-ferry ride across the James, to dinner at the Virginia Diner on Friday marked the first thaw, as we breathed in the fresh air, standing on the deck of the ferry and laughing at the ‘river’-gulls (?) ‘hanging-three’ at the brunt of the vessel.
Saturday was the day for the main stop of our family’s ‘staycation’ this year. ‘Over-nighting’ in the grand old Natural Bridge Hotel afforded us the chance to spend Sunday morning calmly sitting at varying vantage points, drawing the bridge in the art medium of choice offered from several options in my cooler bag. I had cautiously suggested the activity, as one to turn our thoughts God-ward, since we would not be with the gathered church that morning. I had asked that we do it quietly, reflecting devotionally on any thought or idea inspired by this aspect of Creation, as we captured it on canvas.
To my grateful relief, all three of my college/career aged kids fell to the activity with almost impassioned gusto! All three interpretations were as unique & as significant as each ‘artist’ — a freshly graduated (& employed!) junior video/editor designer, a 3rd year architecture student (female) and a high school senior taking his first tentative steps in community college towards biomedical
I was reminded afresh of the paradigm altering experience we had been called to participate in, as cross-cultural, inter-“nation”-al, Christian homeschoolers—bridge people! if ever there were ones!
Appreciative as I was of what I saw in my family that morning—diligently, seriously working on those renderings of that natural site for almost two hours, I might have missed its starkness had I not had a chance to see them further through the eyes of passersby. Scarcely an individual, or family going by, failed to acknowledge, quietly or with voiced approval, what they observed not just of the children’s abilities, but of the sheer idea of taking the time to capture in pencils, charcoal or pastels, Nature’s display of God’s handiwork, instead of briefly shooting a quick pic with their phones and moving on. What was it that I detected in their questioning eyes and wistful glances—A longing? A hope? A pledge to try again? A memory of the really important? The uninvited, unexpected attention,
though awkward, felt purposeful.
Just as it is quite possible that many have driven over Natural Bridge, (US Highway 11 literally runs atop this landmark!) without realizing its presence or significance, I realized how demanding seasons can make us rush by significant structures that are anchoring us to meaning & purpose. I felt provoked by the reactions of Natural Bridge’s visitors, to examine afresh our family’s call, and to cherish the proven rhythms and values that have shaped us. I experienced new appreciation and gratitude for my brave children, knowing the trials of the unique paths they each take and was strengthened in my awareness that we are in no way accomplishing this in our own strength. I felt proud of them & pledged to keep praying for them a lifestyle that identifies, savors and represents their Creator well, to their generation, in a day when many will be oblivious & spurning of the truth of Creation’s message.
I had a Psalmodic moment sitting there, feeling the precious oil upon the head, and my cup running over, catching a glimpse of the Good Shepherd in the face of the Natural Bridge, maybe not in the way many have claimed to during the light show, but His glorious face nonetheless, leading us on towards the next season. I wondered what yawning fracture of human experience we would next be called to span by the grace of the Cross, that Bridge of all bridges. His glory being perfected in our weakness, leaves us confident that the same Hand that released the fountains of the deep & caused the Jordan to flood will continue to also design paths that point Home, though they lead through oceans, deserts or rocks
[Natural Bridge’s overtly Christian light-show theme, based on the Bible’s seven days of Creation, is scheduled to be discontinued in a few months, as it transfers into the State’s Department of Conservation and Recreation system. Nevertheless, may the starkness of daylight continue to reveal, the testimony of Creation, and Creation’s God.]