I have burned a few bridges in my life, but I have also repaired a few which seemed irreparable. When my injured pride comes in contact with my self defense mechanisms, bridges go up in flames. God placed vivid images in my path this week to teach me the wisdom of building bridges rather than burning them. Burning a bridge is necessary when a toxic relationship threatens my well-being or causes me to compromise on my beliefs, but I can turn from an irreparable relationship without having to set fire to a bridge. A simple dusting of my feet and moving on is more than enough.
At the root of burning a bridge is the fear that I will go back over it, not the fear that the one inflicting the hurt will come back over. I know I’m not the only one who fears returning to a bad relationship, but I was shocked by the lesson God gently taught me this week. When there is danger, a bridge needs to be burned. When at war, a bridge needs to be burned. Most other spans should be left open because connections are important to God’s work, and relationships are at the very heart of His kingdom.
Redefining relationships is much better than going to the extreme measure of burning a bridge. Burning bridges is a very old military technique that may have begun with Julius Caesar when he built two massive bridges over the Rhine in 55 BC in a show of power meant to inflict fear in the Germanic tribes nearby. He ordered both burned when those tribes didn’t react as he expected. He decided discretion might just be the better part of valor and burned those bridges to keep the peace and his property:)
I have burned three bridges in my life, but only one involved valor of any measure. I have to take a stand and burn a bridge when things are very wrong and compromise my values in a way that is unacceptable. However, a less extreme measure is as effective without the collateral damage and should be taken when possible. Jesus advised His disciples to wipe the dust from their feet, not to burn the bridge when folks did not accept the truth. There is a big difference in the two strategies, and wiping the dust off my feet and truly moving on is the most effective way to deal with a situation when a relationship is irreparable. The other two bridges were burned out of fear. Fear represents a lack of faith in God, and I realize that dusting my feet is more than enough if I believe God is who He says He is, and I have truly become who He desires for me to be. Burning bridges is an extreme measure that should be reserved for keeping peace and building relationships, not ending them. I guess we all can learn a lesson from Julius Caesar in that regard.
I saw the results of a burned bridge this week, and it hurt to watch. It is much easier to see the truth in someone else’s life than in my own, so God let me see the collateral damage of such drastic measures. Bridges may span great divides or simply stretch over a marshy area, but all offer both a way out as well as a way in. People or places may indeed need to be avoided, but to permanently cut off an individual or group is something to be carefully considered. God knows better than we how terrible that can be. Separation from God’s love is the definition of hell, so any fires there involve burning His Bridge. I’m thankful His Son built His Bridge so I can be in His presence, experience His forgiveness, and be surrounded by His love. That bridge makes me humbly mindful of all bridges and causes me to pause before lighting any torches.
Pastor John introduced me to Fisher Humphreys’ view on forgiveness, and I learned that giving up my right to retaliate and praying for those who hurt me is the way to forgive as Christ forgives. That level of forgiveness helps me build new bridges, restores bridges I’ve burned, and keeps me from burning any more. I can hold on to my stubborn pride like a torch, look down at the cold cinders, and feel smug about being safe and right if I like; but I believe God would rather have me take the path His Son took. He prefers building bridges and restoring the ones I’ve burned rather than setting any new fires:)