For today’s reflection, I would like to share the following story. The author is unknown, and the story can be found in various places on the internet.
Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on the older brother’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days 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 tall fence so I won’t need to see his place anymore. That’ll show him!”
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 met at the middle of the bridge, 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 so many more bridges to build.”
How many times in our lives do we put up fences, or create artificial boundaries? In what ways do we hold ourselves back from things that we once treasured, or things that we know we need? There are an infinite number of dips, valleys, and chasms that surround us in life, some created by difficult circumstances, some by the actions of others, and all too many created by our own doubts, fears, or stubborn ways of thinking.
In this story we meet Jesus as the Bridge Builder. Making it possible for us to cross the widest chasm or the deepest trench to grow in love, in forgiveness, and in spiritual maturity.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites had to cross the River Jordan to get to the Promised Land. What obstacles must we cross in our everyday lives? What is our River Jordan? And how often is the river one of our own making or design, like the farmer who bulldozed the levee. A very wise woman named Sister Mary Fahey once shared this quote with me: “You are the bridge you must cross over to get to the Promised Land.” Take a moment today to think about the ways in which Jesus has responded to the need for bridges in your own life. Who has the Lord sent to be “bridge figures” when you most needed them? People that have shown you the way, and helped you to get that much closer to the Promised Land.
On the flip side, now take some time to thing aobut how Jesus might be calling you to be a bridge for someone else. Is it possible that you could be the bridge leading a a friend, colleague, family member…even a stranger to a new and better time in her life, or perhaps, even closer to God?