We loaded or BB guns as full as we could. The extra bb’s we crammed into our pockets for loading later. I was twelve that summer in 1972. My stepbrother Rob was five years older than I was. He asked if I wanted to go shooting with him and his buddies. I was smiling ear to ear and all I could say was “yea.” I grabbed my gun and we went in and told mom we were going down to the river to shoot. She said that was fine but no shooting at one another. About a half a mile behind our house ran the Kishwaukee River. So we jumped the fence and walked through the cornfields to the river. There were six of us and we split up the teams as we walked. I was on Rob’s team with one of his close friends.
As soon as we were at the river the other team ran across the metal bridge. Rob looks at his friend and me “let’s do this thing.” The guns were raised and everyone ran for cover. The BB gun war had begun. Now, we heard our mother tell us not to shoot at one another, but we never listened. We did it anyway. So now the bb’s are flying everywhere and everyone is yelling like in real war. Then it happens, the bb hits me square in the eye. I go down and I thought I was dying. The battle stops and Rob runs over and looks at my eye. I will live to see another day. I must of blinked right before it hit. The bb had struck my eyelid and left a nasty mark.

That night at the dinner table I tried to keep my eyes open and not blink. But that was impossible. Mom finally saw the welt on my eye and freaked out. She asked me if it was from a bb and I told her yes. She made me give her the gun and she hid it. Mom gave it back after two weeks, she could not take the constant whining anymore. The summer went by fast that year. In November I went back down to the river with my BB gun. I was on the old metal bridge just shooting away when the gun slipped from my hands. I watch it fall into the river with a splash. At twelve years old this really stunk. I thought of jumping in but the fall weather was cold. Plus at twelve the river looks big and mean. With my head down I walk through the fields that headed back home.

Two years later I’m tubing down the river with my best friend Robert and some other friends when we go under the bridge. It was the old rusty bridge I dropped the gun from. I remembered and jumped from the tub and told everyone I had a BB gun in this area of water. After a couple of minutes later the gun was found and pulled out of the river. The water was drained out and you could still hear the bb’s rolling around inside. There was some rust and dirt on the gun now. I pull back on the handle and it made that click sound. I aim the gun and pulled the trigger. The gun shot and the bb flew out like the gun was brand new. It even seemed like it shot further now. That day we had a blast floating down the river shooting the rusty BB gun.

Eleven years later I came back to the old metal bridge with Jesus. But unlike the BB gun he did not slip out of my hands and into the water. But I left him there and said I didn’t need him anymore in my life. I turned my back on Jesus and walked away. I went back into the world and the ways of the world. So I went back to the drugs and drinking. I went back to the person I didn’t like to be. I went back to hell on earth. I went headfirst and dove right back into the sins of the world. I tried to live a good life on my own. I married and had two awesome kids. A house with two dogs running in the backyard.
The American dream was on. Even though my heart ached and yearned for Jesus I just kept putting him last in my life. The Son of God was thrown to the back with no respect.
I ran from the Jesus that bleed on the cross. For twenty years I searched for my own truth. I know now that Jesus is the only real truth. You have been waiting for me to come back to your love. You kept calling my heart in the morning and in the night. I am like a child that doesn’t listen. You never hated me for turning my back on you. You love us when we are so hurtful to you. I am sorry Jesus that I have denied your name so many times.

Now I’m in my Forties and I go back to the Bridge. I cannot run from your love anymore. When I get to the bridge my Jesus is there. He didn’t turn his back on me like I did on him. His arms are open and he welcomes me back to his love. I fall to my hands and knees and weep. I ask for forgiveness, but I am too ashamed to look his way. Jesus picks me up and wipes the tears from my eyes and tells me how much he loves me.
“How can you love someone like me?”
“I love everyone, for I am God’s son.”
“But the shame is so heavy Jesus.”
“The shame is gone with your sins, when you asked for forgiveness.”
I leave the bridge now and my heart is different. Now there is no void in my heart and in my life. He is with me now wherever I am and wherever I go. I never want to hurt you again Jesus. But I know I will, for I am a sinner.

The summer day is perfect for fishing. My brother and I walk down the middle of the river in our chest waders. We fish for smallmouth and northern. We make our way down the river and I see the metal bridge in the distance. I love my brother for all the years when he talked about God and his Son Jesus. For those were the years I was running from Jesus. My brother is a wiser man than he knows. He did not condemn me for walking away from Jesus. But talked to me with love and compassion on finding his grace again. So now we both stand in the water and look upon the bridge. The brush has grown out of control now. The farmer sold all of the land for building. Right in front of the bridge a big oak has fallen across the river. The place has changed, but it will never change in my heart. Some memories are good to hold on to. I look at my brother and thank God for the journey we are on. Because we both walk with the man that is called Jesus. And we know that he walks with us.

Wayne Roe