Imagine life without bridges. There are all kinds of bridges, from the smallest culvert to the greatest engineering marvels that span miles of distance. There are bridges made to walk across, swinging, or fixed in place, or there may be just a slippery log or some rocks. Culverts can be ever so small but without them, country roads would wear away from erosion and the ensuing ravines would become deeper and deeper over time. The world’s tallest, longest bridges save hours of driving time by eliminating the use of ferries and boats, or miles of detours. Think back to bygone eras in our country and all the hardships endured by pioneers as they ferried their livestock and themselves across torrid rivers and lakes of all sizes. What a toll that exacted on lives, both human and animal.

If bridges make our physical life so much easier, what about the effect they could have on our relationships? A bridge spans the distance between two sides and helps us get from one side to the other. It seems in life that we need bridges to span our differences. Perhaps there is a small rift between us and some other parents who attend church together. I don’t understand their child training- or lack of it. Maybe within my family there are age old differences that have been ignored for too long. My friend said some cutting words. That mom with the child with extra challenges seems to be overreacting and using the disability for an excuse for bad behavior. The teacher simply does not understand my child. That family claims their child has some newfangled diagnosis. I can’t see any difference between him and the other children, but they think they need special treatment. Emotional illness and addictions are at times difficult to understand.

Over time these differences can grow from a small rift that might have been fixed with a little culvert or a scenic swinging bridge- but now? The storms have come through, the rift gets bigger and wider and rockier, and relationships become more and more eroded. It may take some huge feats of engineering, not to mention the cost on both sides, to get this mess brought together. Meanwhile we start to take detours, so we don’t have to face the sad erosion.

How do we build bridges? What kinds of materials do we use? And when we do put one in, who crosses it first? Can we build a bridge from just one side?

Perhaps it begins with just a wee bit of kindness and curiosity, a hand reaching out, a nonjudgmental question asked and answered. Not asking “why” but “how”. It will not work if we stand by, not wanting to soil our hands in the mess that happens as building progresses.

Maybe there is a bridge in place already, but we look at it askance, thinking that it seems too restrictive, or slippery or completely impassable. It has not been maintained and has large gaping holes that need repairing. Maybe there has never been a bridge of any kind and we desperately need one. A work bee can do wonders for repairs physically…what does a relational work bee look like? We say, “But no one understands” or “This is such a huge project; how will we ever manage to get this in working order?”

Using the tools of understanding and compassion, we can accomplish great things! Some other tools might be taking the time to learn about the other person’s past, asking what the person’s love language might be, or what is her personality type. Reading a recommended book on the topic of contention is also helpful when done with a determination to truly learn. Prayer is a tool that is invaluable. Using the tool of judgment is not likely to help the construction process. Don’t be in too big a hurry in your bridge building. Doing a good job often requires extra time.

When the bridge is complete, it may look rather raw and out of place in all the mess that has been created. However, over time, as it is used and maintained, it will become a thing of beauty as grass, trees and flowers grow up around it and soften the edges. The scenery from the bridge of forgiveness is amazing!
Who will cross that newly built or repaired bridge first? Hopefully, there has already been some traffic back and forth during the repairs. When the work is complete, no one will worry about who benefits from it first or whether we meet closer to one side or the other.

A saying goes “It is man who creates the distance. It is Jesus who builds the bridge”. Jesus is the ultimate Bridge Builder and prayer the means of connecting to His master plan. Bridges can be built without Him, but with Him as the Chief Engineer the work is much easier and more lasting.

Written by – Ida Klassen