I was sitting on the attic floor and sorting through hand-me-downs when the phone rang . . . and a bridge began to crumble. Through tears, and through a clunky, cordless phone, my friend dropped the bomb. She and her family would be leaving our church — the church where our kids had misbehaved together and where she and I had grown from ministry colleagues to friends of the heart.
It wasn’t long after this that our kids became self-sufficient drivers. They didn’t need us to facilitate their social life, and the breech widened.
We attended the same weddings and funerals. We bumped into each other at the drug store. Then, one day, I read this text: “We’re putting the house on the market and moving south to be closer to both sons. I miss our chats…”
Not sure how to respond, I said what was in my heart: “If someone had told me ten years ago that we would go for months without talking to each other, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
“I know,” she replied, with a sad-faced emoji.
Geography was about to finish off what life changes had begun. But I’m not sitting on the attic floor today, and the little bodies who wore the hand-me-downs have grown to man-size and they’re buying their own clothes now. The span of fifteen years has reworked the landscape of my life, and this friendship, this bridge isn’t the only thing that’s broken.
Death has made irreplaceable people inaccessible. Church friends, playground friends, and bleacher friends (like me) have moved on to other circles. My own children have flown the nest. Now I have four sons with four different addresses, and these four bridges are still strong — but they are longer than they used to be.
Change is unavoidable, but this one thing I am learning about connections with my fellow humans: Whatever bridge may have crumbled, God is still present. My life with God is not mediated by friends or institutions. All that I enjoy on this “swiftly tilting planet” comes from God — and He is not far off.
When Paul was preaching in Athens, he assured the doubting locals that God “is actually not far from each one of us.” The one in whom we “live and move and have our being” is the bridge that never crumbles. He is the safety net who holds me fast when I’ve been left in mid-air and my feet need a solid place to stand.
With all that truth stored up in my heart, I’m finding two strategies for navigating the inevitable separations that come with this world of temporary connections and crumbling bridges.
First, decide in advance that it’s not awkward. Don’t give in to the temptation to duck behind the paper towel display at Costco when you see the former church member or long-ago bleacher buddy. Give and receive hugs, be curious about their kids or their pets, share a quick update on your own family, inquire about mutual friends, and then move on with a smile. Even if they have wronged you somehow, even if the debris of your crumbling connection left bruises on your heart, ask God for grace to forgive them, and then treat them as if they have been forgiven. Wendell Berry calls this brand of quick and ready grace “prepared forgiveness,” and it mirrors the mercy we’ve received from God. Forgiveness may not restore the ruptured relationship, but it will release you from bitterness — and awkwardness.
Second, hold everything and everyone with open hands. When my fists are clenched around some relationship, some imagined future good, it’s hard to receive the next good thing that God is bringing to pass. If occurs to me that, right now, my old friend and I are reconnected in a way I would not have expected. My prayers for her are building an invisible bridge that has softened my heart and is healing my feeling of loss. I don’t expect to see her again, at least not right away. But when she comes to mind, I pray for her moving process, for a peaceful transition to her new home, and for strong ties to her kids and her new community.
The melancholy truth is that our lives are a series of connections, disconnections, and reconnections. Holding the good alongside the broken requires a sinewy faith, a commitment to the truth of God’s sovereignty, and an assurance that He is able to weave loss into a tapestry for good.
He himself will be your solid safety net, even when old bridges have broken.Leave a Comment