by Joan Ray

Picture a bridge, the kind we have in Florida. Like the one on I-295 from Orange Park to Mandarin. Look under it. See the supports holding it up? Now if you can picture a bridge in the mountains. Have you seen the kind where the supports are on either side in very solid rock? There is absolutely nothing under those bridges. They seem to hang/sit suspended in the air. Not a suspension bridge, just the solid thick ones that span a huge cleft between two high places.

In the Sanford teaching (Elijah House School), he likens wounding/hurt/pain-anger to God building a bridge. He stands there and has Paula punch him in his shoulder to symbolize a punch in the natural. Then he takes that to the cross and responds by blessing the offender. John illustrates this by touching her head. In this way God is able to create a bride between you and another. Particularly, he says, a nonbeliever.

In other material I have seen a bridge is also used to span the void/separation between a Holy God and a sinful man. Jesus is, of course, that bridge.

Do I want to be a bridge? Absolutely not! It hurts. Do I think Jesus wanted the suffering associated with becoming a bridge for me ? I know he did not because he asked his Father to take the necessity of the cross away. But above/beyond that he was willing. He says, "Not my will but yours". He surrenders to the good and perfect will of the father.

For me, to be a bridge is terrifying. I have been used that way, we all have either knowingly or unknowingly. Do I like it? No way. It is very painful. But then I have given myself to Christ and so do I have a choice? Sure, a choice to rebel or surrender again and again.

For some the bridges seem easier. For me in my past life when I was full of self-made strategies for coping with life it seemed easy. But at what cost? The supports would seem more like the piling type on the Orange Park (Fla.) bridge. They are clearly visible. For most of us some of those supports actually most of them were "self-supports". By that I mean ways of coping, such as hiding, walls, holding anger, or whatever our drug of choice is. But I think as we draw closer to God he asks us to become like the mountain bridge. We can see no way, no earthly way to be supported. Especially when we are in the middle of a circumstance. But then we come to realize that he (Jesus) is our support, our stronghold, our hiding place, our refuge. He is strong, as strong as the mountain bridge.

I am glad John shared some of his specific circumstances when he and Paula were called to bless those who were persecuting them. That made it easier to see the reality. Even watching them, especially Paula as he talked about his granddaughter and the person who hurt his ministry, you could perceive pain. It hurt, as he said. Apparently the memory of it still hurts. But he was blessed to see how God used his obedience.

I still don't want to be a bridge in some situations. I will. I want to say "I can't. I did say that to God, "Don't you see it's too hard for me." But he says, "My strength is sufficient." And he shows me that he does not ask of us huge bridges before we are equipped by the smaller easier ones. Just as a mountain bridge has all that steel or metal under the highway, so also do we. Each act of obedience, of "turning the other cheek" and applying forgiveness+blessing is an added support. So that we become stronger, not in ourselves but in the Lord. Clothed/reinforced by his strength, which is stronger than the strongest material know to man. Much stronger than our carnal ways of coping.

None of this is particularly comforting. Not at all. But I keep thinking "to whom much is given, much is required." He asks, What do you want? God's way, the narrow way, the way of the Cross, the way of dying to "self" so that you can become alive in Christ or the easy road? The path that leads to Life or death? Do you decrease so I may increase? Or not? Do you choose idolatry, which is counterfeit or Christ which is real? Do you choose to die, so that you may live? He did, He chose to die that we might live. He chose to lay down his life, so that we could have eternal life. He is the way, the truth and both the Light and the Life. In him I want to live and move and have my being. And that includes being conformed to his image. It includes identifying with the cross. It is a wonderful/terrible choice. But one most of us have already made. So now the choice becomes, to obey or not.

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