“And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:8
The word of God and faith of Jesus Christ travels from city to city, down dirt roads and highways and often over precarious bridges. We build bridges as a means for commerce and a way to connect to others. Where there is impasse, we have learned to “bridge a way forward.” For the past five years, the cable network DIY program Fixer Upper has featured Chip and Joanna Gaines from Waco, Texas. Though the popular TV reality show has now ended, Chip Gains did write an excellent book, Capital Gains. From his book, I share the following with you:
“We can yell at the screen, get mad and sad all we want, as long as we engage, hear, and truly try to understand what the other side is fighting for and why. It can only be good for us to stand where they stand, take in the landscape from their perspective for a bit. Rather than ridicule and belittle, we can choose to acknowledge why they are passionate about what they are passionate about.
These battle lines drawn down the center of our country’s soul seem to be costing us our humanity. We stereotype and mock entire people groups merely because they think differently or look different than we do. The oversimplified strokes with which we paint perfect strangers isn’t just hateful; it’s ignorant. If we could get a handle on this… we just might become formidable in a way that this world has never seen.” (Capital Gains, Harper Collins Publishing Company, 2017, page 150)
Chip goes on discussing the need, in our country, to build bridges of healing and conversations about what that might look like if we could find an empathetic way of listening to one another. I offer this closing story about walls and bridges (author is unknown):
Once upon a time two brothers lived on adjoining farms. John, the eldest, and Joshua, the youngest, had a terrible fight. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed. The relationship began to fall apart over some slight misunderstanding, but grew until it exploded into an exchange of bitter words, followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few day’s work” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?” “Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor, in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us.
Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence — an 8-foot fence — so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow.” The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”
The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job.
The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge — a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work — handrails and all — and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.” The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand.
They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but, I have many more bridges to build.”
In September, Trinity UMC will open an empathetic conversation about how we might better listen to each other called Point of View or POV. Let’s build some bridges together…
In His Service,
Pastor Dale Golden