The magnificent Forth Railway Bridge inspired me as a child. I had a jig-saw depicting this amazing double-cantilevered steel bridge across the River Forth, just north of Edinburgh in Scotland. I loved the picture and did that jig-saw time and time again. It wasn’t for another ten years that I first crossed the bridge that had inspired my childhood imagination. The sound of the train changed as the powerful steam engine started out across the bridge and pulled us northwards into the heart of Scotland. High above us were the great central towers that supported the cantilevered steel. Far below us were the grey-blue waters of the River Forth. I will never forget my first crossing of the Firth of Forth!
This extraordinary construction has now been carrying about 200 trains a day across the River Forth for one hundred and twenty years. More than 55,000 tons of steel were used in its construction and over eight million rivets were used to hold all the steel plates together. The bridge was opened on 4 March 1890 by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward the Seventh, who drove home the last gold-plated, rivet! The bridge is still in remarkably good condition and looks set to last at least another hundred years.
While everyone photographs the structure, and thrills to the sight of trains crossing this great river divide, there is a part of the bridge which is never seen, but which, to me, is the most important part of the bridge. Largely hidden from sight and buried deep beneath the river bed are 18,122 cubic metres of solid Scottish granite. These are the foundations of the piers which support the steel. They are unseen and unmoving, but they never stop working. They are always there making it possible for all those trains, with their thousands of passengers and thousands of tons of freight, to travel north and south day after day, year after year. It’s the hidden foundations which make the bridge safe.
Not only, as a child, did I enjoy my Forth Bridge jig-saw, but I enjoyed all the different ways in which my Mum and Dad put foundations into my life. And as I got older I realised they could only have done that for me because, in turn, foundations had been put into their lives when they were young. The foundations were out of sight, they were hidden treasure. When I was much older I began to appreciate how many other people had been enabled to cross into the safety of knowing Jesus, because of the solidity of the foundations that had underpinned the life of my parents.
As I look at the Forth Rail Bridge today, realising that it is the hidden rock which bears the load, I am reminded of a song we used to sing as children, ‘Build on the Rock, the Rock that ever stands’. Jesus is the only foundation that is sufficient to withstand all the pressures and storms of life. The Forth Bridge was built to withstand the extremes of weather that can be experienced on the River Forth.
If our lives are built on the Rock of Jesus Christ, not only will we be secure, but we will be constructing a bridge with our lives, which will withstand all of life’s conditions and enable many, many others to cross over into the safety and security of knowing the Saviour for themselves. And one generation after another will be blessed by the way you, your children and your children’s children demonstrate the reality of the hidden treasure of wisdom and knowledge that Jesus gives to each of those who know and love Him and build their lives on the Rock!
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, that you desire to build such solid foundations into us, that whatever life throws at us we will, in Your strength, be able to remain firm and secure on the one and only foundation for life that can carry the load. Help me to so build on the Rock that my life becomes a bridge, across which others can go and find the Saviour for themselves. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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