When we first started The Bridge, I looked around my community and decided every wrong was to be righted. And soon. There was a neighbor facing foreclosure. Another broken by alcoholism. Others dealing with joblessness and bills and angry kids.
I could ignore the pain within me by focusing on the pain around me. And, I could gloss over the pain around me by focusing on fix-it-now solutions.
More English classes. Help fill out another job application. Figure out how to appeal the foreclosure. And we ran around like that for months, maybe years. But the problems kept coming, and the solutions didn’t always stick.
Because bridge-builders aren’t exactly called to right all the wrongs. But, we are called to stay in it, as companions and ones who walk alongside.
One day, a neighbor family had to bury their newborn. That’s when I learned how to sit in grief, how to show up with bottles of water and other drinks, and to just be in the sadness as a community. No one rushed the grieving.
Being a bridge-builder means choosing to feel it rather than fix it.
The man who’s son had passed away told me something I’ll never forget:
“Anne, in Africa we say that you don’t really know each other until you stand by a grave together.”
And so we gathered around that grave together. And Jay and our kids and I stood alongside them without answers or reasons.
That experience changed how I viewed my calling and my relationships. Because everyone desires relationships with real humans, people with tears and laughter and deep sighs. None of us wants to be fixed or resolved; we want companions who are willing to sit beside us while we grieve and cheer with us when we rejoice.
And so bridge-builders don’t run away from the pain; they walk together through it, eyes on the One who overcame it. And, they believe if there’s to be a fix, that the safety and love of a community may be the best one available.
For additional reading on this topic, here’s a post from July 15:
I stopped on the story of Jesus and Lazarus the other day. Stopped right at the part about Jesus weeping.
He wept. Fully.
Compassion poured from His eyes and ran into His hands, hands which would soon enough be torn up on a bloody cross. Maybe He bent over in grief, pressing those hands to His mouth, without words.
See, the God of the universe did not simply blink extra and ignore the well of emotion coming to His holy eyes. Didn’t choke it back and cough gruffly. Didn’t manage out something about how everything happens for a reason after all, and what a beautiful life this one lived at least.
And, I couldn’t get over that scene of Heaven’s Glory grieving long and hard over His friend, Lazarus.
Why? Because certainly Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Certainly He knew that death would never keep this one, not this time.
Certainly He knew it was within His perfect power and awesome sovereign ways to fix this situation.
Yet, for the moment or maybe for many moments, He wept. He grieved. He entered into the loss with compassion. He stayed there silently and let His human heart break with the brokenness of sin and death, for which He alone had the capacity to redeem.
Jesus wept – willing to feel what He knew He could fix.
And that’s where I stopped because I’m not sure we know what to do with that.
How often we’d rather fix something than feel anything. We’d rather give a hand than grieve. We’d rather move on than mourn.
It feels better to feel less, and sometimes we feel less when we just make it all better already – and quickly. Our hands are jumpy to do something, anything to remedy the mess, as if maybe then our hearts would be protected from the weeping.
As a people of great blessings and privilege, maybe it hurts us just too much to see the brokenness of this world. It’s just not comfortable or pleasant to see so much injustice and unfairness. It ruins our days, clogs up our Facebook feed, settles into our cities, bothers our picture-perfect visions.
And I wonder if deep-down, we know we can’t fix it therefore we don’t want to feel it.
But, friends, maybe we are called to feel. To weep long. To let the brokenness break our hearts a little. To be affected deeply and fully. To enter in with empathy and sit for awhile.
Jesus would shortly raise Lazarus from the dead, yet he deemed it worthwhile to feel before He fixed. He sat in the loss with this family. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t pleasant. It cost him his heart.
Can we who wait on that same redemptive power for the fixing of our lives and our world still find it worthwhile to feel? Can we open our hearts and expose ourselves to the pain and trauma and mess of the un-fixable situations in our community and our world without skirting away? Can we choose to stay in a relationship, stick close to one who is grieving, willingly step into the hard places where hearts get battered and lives seem hopeless and just causes appear futile?
Friends, let’s do just that. Let’s be so full of compassion and empathy that it flows from our lives and our eyes, as we stand before the tombs of our Lazaruses.
May we be people who live real lives, up-close with dirt on our hands and with hearts that are sensitive enough to collectively weep over that which we long to see Jesus resurrect, change, redeem. May we be that passionate, that alive, that engaged as Christians today.
This month’s series is on being a bridge-builder. In short, it’s about how to be like certain individuals who let God show up in their words and deeds and forever changed our little family. But, it’s not a series about our story; it’s as series about how Redemption made our story useful, even valuable, in a greater story.
If Jay and I know anything about being a bridge-builder, it’s because we were the ones stuck on an island. If we understand anything about the power of meeting people where they are and standing in the gap, it’s because that’s how we were rescued – by God, through average people.