Last week I took a hike. Most of the time I like to hike alone so I can talk with God. My hike began in the historic mining town of Jacksonville that is located in southwestern Oregon. After walking across town I went through the pioneer cemetery and then linked up with the trail system that rings this beautiful little
In the 1850’s Jacksonville was put on the map by the discovery of gold. The gold rush began when two packers stopped in route to the California gold fields to rest their pack animals. One of the animals got loose and ran up a creek that is now in the middle of modern day Jacksonville. As the packer ran after his animal he noticed gold nuggets in plain view in the creek bed. The rest is history. Oregon had a gold rush and the City of Jacksonville was birthed like many towns in the west ‚Äì fast, violent and undisciplined. Jacksonville grew but quickly diminished after the gold played out. The city languished for many decades until it was revitalized as a historic landmark in the 1960’s and now is on the list of national historic sites. A plaque commemorating that initial gold find is just a few blocks from my home.
After the surface gold in the creek beds was discovered more professional mining methods were employed to dig deeper into the earth in search of the Mother Lode. One of those methods of mining was through the use of water and hydraulics. The large hydraulic waters systems were called, “Giants.” These Giants looked like water nozzles on steroids. Some of them were over twenty feet in length. The Giants would blast the mountain sides with tens of thousands of gallons of water to rinse away the soil to reveal the gold bearing gravel beneath. This method of mining destroyed many of the beautiful hill sides of Southern Oregon. After the hydraulic mining stopped the land was scarred with mound after mound of rock and gravel debris. It has taken 150 years to grow back the forests. To the trained eye you can still see those gravel mounds that lie beneath the blanket of new flora.
On my hike I was walking along a trail that would cross Jackson Creek. Jackson Creek was used in the gold rush to feed water to the Giants that hosed down the hillsides. Chinese laborers built the canals that channeled water from this very creek into those hydraulic systems.
The trail I was on crosses Jackson Creek via a wooden foot bridge. This particular morning was cold and a layer of frost covered the wooden steps of the bridge. I slowed down and walked carefully. I didn’t want my feet to slide out from beneath me. My slowed walk came to a stop midway on the bridge.
As I paused I looked upstream to my right and downstream to my left. Each breath I exhaled, first to the right and then to the left, created a cloud of mist that dissolved into the morning air. I began to get reflective as I stood on the bridge. Like life, some of what we experience is upstream from us, yet to cross our path, and other parts of life have passed us by and are now downstream and part of our history. There is nothing profound in this, it is simply a fact of life.
Then the Lord spoke to me, “What is upstream or downstream in your life will be determined on where you decide to cross the creek.” I wasn’t really sure what to do with that statement. I looked again, up stream and down. I saw water rushing towards me. I saw water rushing away from me. The bridge, this crossing point, had put me in a precise place. This hike led to a prepared crossing ‚Äì a nice wooden bridge. Staying on the bridge guaranteed that I would cross the creek at this exact spot. Prepared crossings are for our safety and to bring us into what God has planned for our future.
When I was a kid I thought bridges were for grownups. I always wanted to get off the path, hike down through the brush and slosh across the creek to the other side. I used to do this a lot when I was a kid at summer church camp at Mt. Herman in the Santa Cruz mountains of Central California. After coming home each summer with major doses of poison oak in various tender and unmentionable locations I learned the value of using a bridge that spanned harmful and itchy things.
This week I read the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Genesis through Deuteronomy speaks of crossings. The children of Israel crossed the Red Sea in the great Exodus from their slavery in Egypt. Another crossing took place after wandering in the wilderness for forty years when they finally crossed the Jordan into the Promise Land. The children of Israel did not pick these places to cross. It was never arbitrary, it was always a planned crossing, a place prepared by God for His children to escape slavery and cross over into the promise He had prepared for them. It was God’s presence that led them to these miraculous crossing points.
God’s presence was the compass that would become their pathway. The children of Israel were led, not by a man, but by the presence of God seen in the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day. When these two manifestations moved an entire nation broke camp and followed.
As I stood that morning on the wooden bridge atop Jackson Creek I realized that God was using the bridge as a prop for a teaching moment. I was understanding that it is important to let God be the One Who decides where we are to make the various crossings of life. A lot of us have gotten impatient and plunged prematurely into the underbrush of life, sloshed across the creek in our own power, slipped on slimy rocks and then came out the other side and exclaimed, ”I made it!” But for the next season of our life we were a lousy advertisement for the glory of God because we were covered in spiritual poison oak and our jeans were soaked and mud-smeared.
Making a crossing with God should resemble the life of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they came out of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3, “They didn’t even smell of smoke” the scriptures tell us. When we make a God- crossing we won’t smell like the things that stood in our way.
God builds bridges, and makes a supernatural ways across challenging chasms, from the perspective of eternity. God-crossings are planned in eternity and then constructed at just the right moment in our time and space. His bridge appears when no bridge is seen. The key for us is to follow His presence. His presence will always lead us to His bridge. When Israel crossed into the Promise Land the Jordan was a raging river. The way across did not seem possible, or even appear, until the priests stepped out over the rushing waters then they parted.
What would happen if we lived like a bridge was always waiting for us even if it was not yet visible? What if we chose to step out over the flood waters of impossibility in radical obedience to His leading? It is always about trusting in His faithfulness. His bridge will always be there to catch our foot if we are truly following Him. Many people are crowding at the water’s edge right now in fear that there is not a way across. But with God it is different. He is the master bridge builder. He always has a way across planned for His children.
After I finally crossed the wooden bridge over Jackson Creek I turned east and walked along its southern banks wondering where other bridges could have been built.