St. Petersburg, Russia
Hundreds of islands make up this remarkable city. Bridges connect the islands but driving across the Neva River, one hardly notices the constant crossing from one side to the other, tributaries, canals, bridge after bridge. Only the occasional views tell the real story – picturesque waterways emerging suddenly from between the palaces and rows of colorful apartments – St. Petersburg seems virtually a floating city. It rises out of the sea multihued like shining water lilies lying on and across the Neva River, the Gulf of Finland and countless tributaries and human-constructed canals and waterways. It is a nautically suspended masterpiece of art and architecture – but laden with traffic.
Delays are endemic. But the scenery offers an antidote to angst. Gardens, palaces, sculptures, and views of natural beauty punctuate the human engineering and well-crafted ambiance. Yet, confronted with such loveliness one also can overlook the daunting creation of the place.
The Building of the Land
Architects and engineers once faced incalculable obstacles constructing this metropolitan masterpiece out of a swap on the far end of the Baltic. Ice-covered and inaccessible in winter, it began as a wild dream in a the mind of Peter the Tzar. But heaving this great city out of the icy, inhospitable mud was a mad enterprise as immense as it was crazy.
The Bible’s consistent message is similar. Is it mad to consider the miracle of God’s love and care for us in the midst of a sometimes inhospitable universe? If sometimes feels a little crazy to attempt to carve meaning out of our competitive world so desperately titled in the direction of self-promotion and ego.
We are separated by numerous things, divided by faith perspectives, upbringings, geography, politics, educational opportunities or their lack – yet we are to be about looking for the bridges, recognizing the good scenery, enjoying the beauty and cultivating the relationships. And when the bridges do not exist, we are called to build them.
The Building of the Bridges
Bridge building in St. Petersburg was torturous. The weather, the diseases, the horrible conditions all contributed to countless calls to abandon the projects and leave Peter the Great’s dream of a great city in a strategic spot. But better wisdom prevailed. And today, St. Petersburg stands as one of the jewels of all world cities.
So it should be with our bridge building and efforts at fostering community across the barriers.
Now, this is true during the day. But at night, there is a different story. Many of the bridges are raised during the night so that ships can enter and leave along Neva. When first constructed, there was little thought given to ship traffic moving in and out of the inner part of the city. Today, traveling through the city at night is impossible. The bridges that connect the people during the day, separate the population at night.
It is said this creates the perfect excuse for wayward husbands: “I couldn’t get home last night because the bridges were up … “ But wives often know better …