In 1883, a creative engineer named John Roebling was inspired by an idea to build a spectacular bridge connecting New York with Long Island. However, bridge building experts throughout the world thought that it was an impossible feat, telling Roebling to forget the idea and that it just could not be done. It was not practical, and a project like that had never been done before.
Roebling could not ignore the idea he had in his mind of building the bridge. He thought about it continually and he knew, deep in his heart, that it could be done. He just had to share the idea with someone else, and after much discussion and persuasion, he managed to convince his son Washington, a construction engineer, that the bridge could be built.
Working together for the first time, the father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished and how any obstacles could be overcome. With great excitement and inspiration, and the prospect of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.
The project started well, but when it was only a few months underway a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington, also seriously injured, was left with a certain amount of brain damage, which resulted in him being paralyzed, unable to walk or talk. Many of the scoffers said, “We told them so.” “Crazy men and their crazy dreams.” “It’s foolish to chase wild visions.” Everyone seemed to have negative comments to make and felt that the project should be stopped since the Roeblings were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built. In spite of his handicap, Washington’s mind was still as sharp as ever and he maintained a burning desire to complete the bridge, never becoming discouraged.
He tried to inspire and pass on his enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too discouraged to tackle the task without him. As he lay on his bed in his hospital room, with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy white curtains apart, enabling him to see the sky and the tops of the trees outside for just a moment.
It seemed that there was a message for him not to give up. Suddenly an idea hit him. He was limited to only moving one finger so he decided to make the best use of it. By moving his finger, he slowly developed a code of communication with his wife.
Touching his wife’s arm with that finger, he indicated to her to call the engineers again and using that same method of tapping her arm he communicated to the engineers what they needed to do. It seemed foolish, but the project was again under way.
For 13 years Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger on his wife’s arm, until the bridge was finally completed. Today the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge stands in all its glory as a tribute to the triumph of one man’s indomitable spirit and his determination not to be defeated by circumstances. It is also a tribute to the engineers and their teamwork, and to their faith in a man who was considered by half the world to be mad. It stands, too, as a tangible monument to the love and devotion of his wife who, for 13 long years, patiently decoded the messages of her husband, instructing the engineers what to do next.
Perhaps this is one of the best examples of a positive attitude that overcame a terrible physical handicap, achieving a seemingly impossible goal.
Often when we face obstacles in our day-to-day life, our hurdles seem very small in comparison to what many others have to face. The Brooklyn Bridge shows us that no matter what the odds are, God will give us strength to accomplish all that it is His will to do.
Each can say with confidence, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” [Philippians 4:13]. Never forget that God is our strength at all times and in all circumstances.
Like Paul, there can be no higher goal than living out our own unique talents to the best of our ability in service to those whom Christ loved. We are called to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), and as we do so, whether it is visible or not, we are making great progress.