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Bridge builder

Bridge builder

How do we make those connections?

It’s late afternoon on a picture-perfect day in Port Huron, Michigan. Having finished my work, I drove to this long strip of green along the St. Clair River, just across the choppy water from Canada.

I pinpointed this park because of the impressive Blue Water Bridge that spans the border between the countries. I’d like to muse on bridges today – in particular, how to build connections to other people.

Thomas Edison would probably say to work hard at it. Not that he had relationship advice. (Nor anything approximating insight into spiritual matters.) But Edison, who lived here as a boy, believed innovation came from an abundance of ideas.

It’s odd, I know, to think that connecting to people requires innovative thinking. But it does. Over the years, I’ve found churches to be like this sculpture of a bouncing ball, requiring a range of creative attempts to break into the insulated core of friendships. It’s tricky just finding ways to engage with people beyond a Sunday morning greeting.

It can be hard work. I have found Edison’s maxim about genius to be true for building relationships, even within the body of Christ. It’s “1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

As I walk on, I’m reminded that I’m on the border. Not only are both flags flying here on the American side of the river, but they are mirrored on the Canadian shore. It’s a reminder, as well, of my own dual heritage, being a child of Canadian parents who became American citizens.

And this, naturally, nudges me to think about our spiritual reality. In Jesus’s prayer in John 17, he speaks to the Father of the tension between his disciples’ heavenly citizenship and earthly mission:

“they are not of the world any more than I am of the world… As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:14-18)

Every believer lives in this tension. We are called to engage a fallen world, but our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). And every Christian struggles, to one degree or another, with living that out. I know I do. This blog is an imperfect effort to traverse that gap by forcing myself to hear God speaking through the world around me

That common struggle helps me in my bridge-building. It provides shared ground and an abundance of grace. We all understand our identity in Christ imperfectly and live it out inconsistently. Not that it’s easy to get to this level of conversation on a typical Sunday morning, but all of our lives are framed by this pursuit.

I look back. The bridge is impressive, closing the gap between the countries in a streamlined reach. Jesus spanned the huge void between heaven and a rebellious earth just as completely, becoming the perfect, obedient human we could never have become.

And now, living in and through us, he is still building bridges.

One conversation at a time.

Lord, give us perseverance and creativity as we seek to connect to others around us. Keep reminding us of how much you did to connect us back to God.

Reader: What have you found that works for building bridges to others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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