Matthew and I recently sat on a plane next to a young man who took over the family business a few years ago. He was a Samford University grad, so we had that in common. He was a pharmacist, who upon graduation, went back home to Woodstock, Alabama, and took over his father’s small town pharmacy. We talked a bit on the flight about being in the family business, and the pluses and struggles involved. From what he said, it sounded like he was happy with his choice.
After that conversation, it occurred to me that I, too, have gone into the family business. My dad used to own a bridge building business. I can remember him often telling me, as we drove over bridges in our state, that his company had built them. If you have driven over bridges in and around Birmingham, Alabama, you have likely driven over some of my dad’s bridges. (Not the one that fell apart in chunks in downtown a couple of years ago, though. My dad’s company built quality bridges.) I’m a nurse. I don’t build the kind of bridges that my dad’s company once did. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to do that. But I am in the bridge building business, nonetheless.
Bridges make it possible to traverse terrain that would be difficult or impossible to travel without them. Sometimes we find ourselves looking out over the expanse, unsure of how to get to where we need or hope to be. Without a bridge, we are left standing in need or without hope. My experience with bridge building has shown me that quality bridges are not built overnight. Quality bridges take a great deal of study and planning. There’s a good bit of prep work involved before the first piece is laid into place. There must be a clear understanding of the kind of bridge that is needed.
Quality bridges require intense labor to build. Already there are obstacles to overcome. I mean if there weren’t obstacles, then there’d be no need for a bridge, right? To build a bridge, we have to figure out how to deal with the obstacles. There is a great deal of risk when endeavoring to build a bridge. So many things can go wrong. The dangers are real, but keep in mind, bridge builders are meeting a need, fostering hope. When you weigh the risks against the benefits, generally speaking, bridges are worth the risk.
I know what it’s like to stand at the edge and look out to a destination I can never reach on my own. There is no way around, over or under. There is no way home without a bridge. It’s the old, “You can’t get there from here” saying that I hate so much. I used to think, “That’s so dumb. You can get anywhere from anywhere.” But sometimes, without a bridge, you can’t.
I stood at the edge, unable to make it. Unable… until the Bridge Builder made a way. I was separated, alone and without hope… until a way was made for me. A bridge… a way for me to close the gap between where I stood and a restored relationship with the Father. You see, my earthly father was once a bridge builder, but my heavenly Father was a bridge builder long before that. I guess it should be no surprise, then, that I, too, became a bridge builder.
But here’s the thing about building bridges. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean folks are going to be eager to use it. Some of them will just stand there, continuing to gaze across the gap, unsure, unready to step out and trust the bridge you’ve built. It can be frustrating, for sure. I can only imagine how frustrated God must feel sometimes when we ignore or doubt His bridge. It seems crazy to those of us who have taken advantage of it, but it happens. We shouldn’t then be surprised when people don’t always rush across our bridges. That doesn’t mean we stop building them or tending to them.
Bridges help us make connections. Connections from one place to another, or more importantly, connections between people. In my case, Jesus was the bridge that got me home and restored my relationship with God. If you are believer, then you crossed that same bridge. And if you crossed that same bridge, then you are in the family business, too. It’s about connecting, reaching out, and making a way for people to get from over there… to a place where their needs are met and hope is found, over here.
As believers, we all have our own bridges to build. Do you see them standing there, looking out over the expanse? It’s time to build.