This morning I was thinking of pride (my daily study this morning concerned boastfulness) and how much of it I had when I was a teenager. Early in my teenage years I became depressed; the bullies I gained Freshman year of high school didn’t help. However, I don’t recall anyone in my life at the time being a positive, uplifting friend. There may have been someone there, but in the darkness I was wrapped in I couldn’t see them nor hear their supportive words. Around Sophomore or Junior year, I tried to lift my own self-esteem and I took a lot of pride in the things I did well, but I also looked down on several others.
This self-pride counted to my early twenties; it had become a wall of protection, so no one else could hurt my self-esteem. In my mind, I was a survivor of bullies and ridicule. I was strong, tough, and no one was ever going to hurt me again if I could help it. I did everything on my own and if I wanted it done I had to do it myself because no one was dependable enough to lean on. But while these walls still stood and may have blocked some pain from occurring, I was still hurting inside them. The old wounds refused to heal and the emptiness there hadn’t been filled. Looking back, I see those walls as a rude, arrogant boundary that aided my loneliness instead of being a helpful thing in any way. I hardly opened my walls to help someone else because I didn’t want to get to close in case I was wounded again.
One of the spiritually staircases the Lord led me to in our journey together was one that required me to open my backpack and drop self-pride out of it. He helped me tear down those walls. While I’m still learning to let people in to love on them as He would, I’ve understood the lesson He was trying to teach: walls prevent others from seeing the light of God shining through you.
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”Matthew 5:15
Sure, someone can see you’re light inside the walls from a hilltop overlooking where you rest, but when they draw closer to that light they come face to face with a wall. The stone that makes up that wall is blocking the light from their eyes and they will soon forget what they saw on the hilltop. Yes, the world and those in it will hurt us (as my pastor says, ‘hurt people hurt people’), but if we are to be different than those in the world we need to love those who hurt us anyways. We know the Lord will mend our wounds, but they aren’t aware of His healing touch. Deep, deep down, they aren’t lashing out at us because they hate us. They may think they do because some may not like who we are in Christ, but in all actuality it’s their pain that has them lashing out. Love heals the wounds of the soul and, until we step forth and present the love of Christ as their salve, they will have no rest from their pain.
In the same way, bridges need to be built to help others. When we establish a relationship with someone who was once a stranger we build that bridge between them and us. We are called, too, to help them build a bridge between them and Jesus. It is easier for us to build that bridge between them and ourselves, there is no doubt. We’ll find that topic we both relate to — like how Avengers: End Game was bittersweet — and go from there. Why is it easy? Because going to a stranger is like calling from our floating island to theirs asking to build a bridge to them. When we find a relatable topic to discuss and they like us, they will accept our request. It is us building that bridge to them.
However, when we are helping them build a bridge between Jesus and them it is they who are the builders. We can’t force them to build that bridge and have a relationship with Jesus. A forced love isn’t love at all. All we can do is guide them on how to build it. They may lay the first plank, then get tired or frustrated. They may yell at you for telling them to do this when the weather is too hot or for picking this direction when the opposite direction looks sweeter. We have to continue to guide them, though, with love, grace, patience, and gentleness, step-by-step. The beautiful thing is, what they don’t know is Jesus will meet them half way. He already gave them the tools to build the bridge, He sent you to tell them what part goes where, and then He meets them in the middle.
The bridge we have connecting us to Jesus isn’t made of wood like those we build to others. It is made of gold; it cannot be burned and it will not corrode over time. Be aware, though, that the bridges between you and the next person are wooden, which can burn. We should not be the one to burn them, for we are not called to spread anger, hatred, dislike, or agitation. We are called to love and care as Jesus loves and cares for us. There will be some who won’t like you for who you are in Christ and will burn that bridge to keep you away. However, whenever they slowly build a bridge back to you because a part of them misses you, you must forgive the past and accept their return with love.
It is difficult, I know. I’ve been in situations like that before. It’s tiresome and painful to love someone who burns their bridge again and again. Yet, those who return time after time are those Jesus is working on. He’s tearing down their walls so they may see the light He is shining on the other side. Because that’s the other problem with walls: the stones block the view of the beauty outside it. We don’t need walls, friends, for the Lord is our refuge when storms come. He will give us rest.
“Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it. Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets. If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.”Psalm 55:9-14