We all need bridges.
A bridge, in its simplest definition, is a span that allows us to get across to the other side. It allows us to get things across. A bridge connects two previously disconnected cities, or islands, or even nations. A bridge becomes a place of common ground between two completely separate place. It’s owned not by one part. It’s ownership is mutual. A bridge transcends difficult terrains, overcomes barriers, provides safety and peace of mind. I have described all the above as some properties of a physical bridge. We need physical bridges yet we also desperately need relational bridge.
A relational bridge, possess different but strikingly parallel properties. For example, to illustrate some of the above properties in a relational bridge, a bridge allows us to get ourselves to get to the other side, to reach a friend, a colleague, or a spouse. When we agreed to begin a friendship with someone, we are allowing them to “come” to our side, allowing them to influence us in some ways.
A relational bridge, allows us to send a message to get to the other side. We continually send and receive message of various forms in our relationship. We begin a friendship because we discovered a common ground, a similarity between us and the other side. It might be our background, our favourite pastime, our work, our culture, our faith, and many other things that allowed us to connect with the other person.
One of the most important property of a bridge, in my opinion is that it overcomes barriers. When Christ died on the cross, He became the eternal, unshakable bridge that beautifully connect us with the Father. In a way, Christ is the bridge-builder. And that is what I wanted to focus on today as we talked about bridge. Because we are of Christ, we are all bridge-builders too. We are therefore not wall-builders. We are, in a word, relational engineers.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (emphasis mine)
There are many barriers that made it difficult for a relational bridge to be fully functional, serving its purpose completely. Bridge-builders need to discover, study and build the bridge so that it’s strong enough and is sturdy enough that it can not only overcome the barriers, but also withstand all the pressure that it is built to receive. If physical bridge need to overcome natural barriers like a river, a sea, or a pit then a relational bridge needs to overcome barriers like, past hurts, negative assumptions, bitterness, anger, negative experiences.
It is therefore true that, just as a physical bridge, before the town planners agreed to build the bridge, need to evaluate and navigate all the possible risks involved in the bridge building, so does a relational bridge require the relational engineers to evaluate and navigate all the risks. Questions need to be asked, such as:
1. Is it worth it?
2. What are the benefits?
3. What are the risks?
4. What are the costs?
5. Does the benefit outweigh the risks and the costs combined?
The above, I believe are the important questions worth asking first. There are other questions we need to ask although they pale in comparison to these ones in terms of the necessity.
In most cases, especially with our relationship, the answer to the first and the last question is almost always, a resounding yes! We are built with the capacity to socialise and to communicate. I strongly believe in the power and the blessing we can receive from a synergistic relationship with others. Although I am a naturally reserved and introverted person, I always made it a point to be involved in a community, whether it is a spiritual ones, or with those who share common interests.
It is often the case, that we didn’t sufficiently ask the questions above that we ended up with broken relationship. Instead of carefully calculating and navigating the barriers and risks that we may encounter in a relationship, we ignored them and later found ourselves falling prey to past hurts or other relationship speedbumps resurfacing.
To illustrate, if we enter into a relationship while nursing past hurts or past bitterness, we may perhaps consciously, or unconsciously project our hurt and bitterness into our new relationship. We have all heard about it before. One claims, “I won’t trust anyone anymore, because I have been betrayed before.” Another says, “All men are the same. No man is trustworthy.” Unless you chose to release yourself from the grip of your own past hurts that are sure to resurface again and again, you will never be able to enjoy a complete and fully trusting relationship.
What future risks might crumble the bridge we have tried so hard to build? When life is good and problems are small and few, a relational bridge may seem strong and easy to navigate. Yet when the bridge isn’t build on a stronger foundation, unprepared for strong wind and fire that may come to threaten the life of the bridge itself, it could easily crumble. Money problems, pride issues, differences in vision are some possible risks that a relational engineer need to prepare for the bridge to be able to withstand the pressure.
I could write more about what and how of these issues, but that is something I would save for another time.
I encourage you today, as you are reading this, to let the bridge-building quality of Jesus to allow you to release all that past hurts and to let Jesus Himself be the bridge between you and the person you are in a relationship with.
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (emphasis mine)