When constructed in 1937, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. That distinction has since gone on to another, newer engineering marvel – the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan. But even 70 years after its completion the Golden Gate remains an impressive sight. Its center span is 4,200 feet (1,280 meters) long and its total length is 8,991 feet (2,740 meters). Its towers reach a staggering 746 feet (227 meters) high. And its clearance of 220 feet allows the tallest ships to pass below.
But as impressive as the bridge is, equally amazing is the story of its construction and the men who risked their lives to build it – 19 of whom perished in the process. Over the years I have enjoyed many articles and documentaries on the building of this and other bridges and marvel at the ingenuity and vision of the builders who overcame incredible obstacles to erect a monument to man’s achievement.
But without denying the builders their due credit, I am convinced that theirs was far from the toughest job. For the labors of the builders of bridges and towers have advantages over the rest of us. The builders’ work has the element of permanence, measurability, and visibility. When they complete this project – it’s done. They have a profound sense of “mission accomplishment.” And it’s permanent. It will not melt away like the great ice sculptures of Finland or wash away like an artist’s sand sculpture on the beach. It’s measurable in every way. And the builder of the Golden Gate Bridge will never have to “walk by faith” regarding the effectiveness of his work. As a result, he can always stand back and look at San Francisco’s most famous and beloved landmark – the mighty Golden Gate Bridge.
What a contrast to the man or woman consigned to the work of maintenance – the person who has the never-ending task of scraping the rust, re-painting the bridge’s International Orange, and re-placing its bolts and cables. Those types of jobs go unnoticed, unappreciated, and never offer that same sense of accomplishment. Therefore, no one writes books or films documentaries on such unglamorous work. For a person to muster the strength and motivation to scrape the rust and push a paint brush, he must exercise faith and assure himself that his labors count.
Unfortunately, the labors of most people fall into that second category – the work that is fraught with discouragement. Why is the labor of a housewife so difficult? Isn’t it due to its never-ending nature? The mess cleaned up yesterday must be cleaned up again today. There is no permanence to her work – there is never a “house-cleaning” that lasts for all time. Nor does she ever serve a meal that will nourish a person for a lifetime.
And would you believe that the work of a soldier has the very same occupational hazards – work that goes unappreciated, unnoticed, and is difficult to measure? Just think of the work of the US Armed Forces in South Korea over the last half-century. Did we prevent further aggression and another catastrophic war by North Korea, or not? Most military strategists would give an emphatic yes. But some may use such military success against the military. A shortsighted logic can conclude, “We’ve had peace for so long – what do we need the military for?”
Yes, the labors with which most of us are saddled have these occupational hazards. Therefore we must remind ourselves of this: Where would the Golden Gate Bridge be if wasn’t for those who continually work on its upkeep? It would have crumbled into the turbulent waters below. Likewise, what would become of the homemaker’s house if she got weary and went on strike? The home would quickly become a disaster area.
And where would our world be without the men and women in uniform who do the never-ending and unappreciated task of providing vigilance and security for America and for the freedom of the world? There would be a perennial open season for every tyrant to oppress his neighbor and endanger civilization itself.
Therefore, take heart. Your work is indispensable. And it is known and valued by God. The same God who created the world and all that lives within it. And the same God who is eternally working at its upkeep and maintenance. Be faithful in the work God has given you to do – as a soldier, a mechanic, a repairman, a housewife, a caregiver, a preacher. The Scripture encourages us: “Be always devoted to the work of the Lord, for you know that your labor for the Lord is never in vain” (1Corinthians 15:58).
Dear Father in heaven, Help me by faith to dedicate my work to you. Help me to look beyond my earthly supervisor and to do my work for my heavenly master. Help me to look beyond all earthly promotions and rewards, and to labor faithfully in obscurity – that I may one day share in the glory of the world to come. Help me to live and work with eternity’s values in mind. Amen.
Image in article: The Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco, United States by Giuseppe Milo, licensed under CC by 2.0)