I watched the flames as they grew higher and higher. I just remember how hot it was on my face and how the colors changed. That was the third time I burned the bridge but that particular time was the first time I could see Him standing on the other side. His expression is seared in my mind. He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t even remotely mad. He was just… heart broken?
Puzzled, I walked back to my house. If He was just going to stand outside there and stare at me, I’d go hide, I thought. I just couldn’t figure out why in the world He wanted to cross that river so badly in the first place. “I can live happily on my own, why can’t He just stay where He is?” I said to the silence for the umpteenth time.
The first time He built the bridge wasn’t really that big of a deal I guess, until He brought a bunch of garbage over here I didn’t want in my life. He kept trying to teach me things, trying to “get to my heart” or help me “figure out my purpose” or “live right” or something. Talking about what His perfection could do for me. Stuff I don’t want to talk about. Stuff I don’t want to deal with. I just wanted to live my life the way I wanted. I didn’t need someone coming over here telling me anything about another way, claiming it’s better. “He doesn’t even know me,” I thought.
So I kindly just put up a rope thinking maybe He’d get the hint. He didn’t. He continued to walk right through it like there wasn’t even a barrier there. So, I tried a No Trespassing sign. A lot of good that did me… Had I assumed He couldn’t read, I might not have gotten so upset, but I got pretty mad. I knew He could read. I knew HE could see the rope and figure out that I just didn’t want Him over here if all He was going to do was preach at me some junk about a narrow road and life and truth and whatever.
Call it irrational if you will, but that’s the first time I burnt the bridge down. I got so full of rage at the Man that it just seemed easier than trying to talk to Him and figure the whole mess out at the time.
For a while, I really thought it worked. You know, I’d kind of see Him in passing across the way, and He’d wave and I’d nod. Sometimes, He’d just look at me. It gave me the creeps. Like He knew something I didn’t. But there was no talking and I felt kinda good. A little lonely and neighborless, but better than dealing with the burden of all that stuff He kept trying to bring up.
I did my thing, He did His, and He was out of my hair. Things got back to normal – then boom! I walked out back and there was the bridge. Rebuilt. In all it’s glory.
“Right. So that’s how we’re going to play,” I remember saying out loud. I walked over to my side of the bridge and stared across. He was just standing there on His porch, staring at me with this look. It wasn’t smug… but I wanted it to be. So I waited til I thought He was busy and I lit that thing on fire again. I was so angry; I didn’t really care so much WHY He was so bent on getting to me, but apparently, my having burned down His little bridge the first time wasn’t a big enough hint that the feeling wasn’t mutual.
It was quite a while later; I’d felt normal for a while now. I just did what I felt right and I lived my own life, and I never even looked across the river. Out of sight, out of mind, right? For a while, I’d even forgotten about the bridge burning.
Months. MONTHS had gone by, and I hadn’t even so much as seen Him out. I did my thing; He did… whatever it is that He did, build bridges elsewhere, I didn’t know – didn’t care. Sitting alone in my house, I heard a tap, tap on the door. I wasn’t expecting anyone so I got up and checked the peep hole.
Sure enough. There was my crazy bridge-building neighbor, perfectly framed in the round eye hole by His brand-new, and bigger-than-ever bridge across the river.
I lost it. I just lost it. I ripped open the door and started to scream at Him. I can’t even remember what exactly I said, something like, “Who do you think you are?!” and “How dare you?” and many other things I may or may not regret later, who knows. And as I shouted, I pushed Him back and back and back, and all the way back across the beastly bridge He built.
Once He was clear on His side of the river, I turned around for mine, grabbed the gasoline and shook the can everywhere. I probably looked mad. Insane. I was berserk. “Stay out of my life,” I said as the Strike-Anywhere match slid across my hip. For a moment, I hesitated when I notice His face showed a certain desperation, but I threw the match anyway.
Almost instantly the whole thing was up in flames. And it burned. And it’s burning.
The whole thing begins to crumble, and the fire goes out with the crash of the structure into the river.
I hate Him. I swear I do. Why does He have to come over here, confronting me with my business? Who is He to say He can make me a better person? What the heck do I need saving from? Get out of here. I’m fine on my own. I’m a decent person. I mean, I never killed anybody. I don’t rob banks. I’m a nice enough person and I do nice things. What else do I need to do in life, huh? C’mon. Coming over here bragging about His perfect and stainless life – whatever.
Pacing in my own yard, rambling in my mind, I don’t even realize what I am almost about to miss.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see Him moving… toward the river. I turn and I can’t believe what I’m seeing. He’s not rebuilding the bridge again, no – He’s getting into the RIVER. But He’s not IN the river. He’s ON it. My neighbor is ON THE RIVER. HE IS WALKING ON WATER.
I start to back up, and I’m immediately aware that my mouth is open and my jaw is dropped. Quickly, I try to not look so astonished, but He’s looking right at me… with that look again. He can see me, but it’s like He can see more than me. Like He can see through me, in me, and ahead of me. It feels soul-penetratingly awkward and I want to hide. I remember everything He said about His perfection, “what if He really is perfect?” I think to myself… “He’ll judge me and hate me, He’ll hate me for burning the bridges..”
“I really am perfect.” He says to me from the middle of the river, “but I don’t be afraid; I don’t hate you.” How did He know I was thinking that? Smiling at me, He says, “Do you believe me?”
“I – I don’t know..” I respond, voice shaking. I am still stunned that He’s in the middle of the river. ON THE WATER.
“What is harder to believe? That I don’t hate you, or that I walk on water?” He asks. He knows my thoughts.
“Who are You?” I question.
“My name is Jesus.” He says. ” But who do you say I am?”
Confused, I say nothing. Without missing a beat, He says to me, “Come. I Am who I say I Am. Come, I will show you what you can do with me.”
“What do you want me to do?” I ask, still confused. Again, a guy ON a river just told me to come to Him and I can’t swim.
He raises His arms as if to welcome me to Him. I have no idea what I’m doing but I make my way to the river anyway. Apprehensively, I just stare at the water in front of my feet. His one word echoes in my mind for a moment. Come. I look up at Him; arms still raised and smile still sure. I look back down at my feet. “Please let this work… If it works for Him… Here goes…” I think.
And with that I close my eyes tight and slowly lift my foot up and step out onto the river’s surface. Slowly, I move my other foot out onto the water. Eyes still closed, I put one foot in front of the other until finally I just have to look.
The moment I open my eyes, He is the first thing I see. He is radiant… He’s beautiful. He looks like sunrise in spring, like the moon over the ocean. He looks like royalty but smiles at me like a servant. For a moment, I am in utter amazement.
And then I look down. I see my reflection in a floor of moving water and I begin to panic. I don’t know how to swim! I look on in horror as my feet begin to sink in the water. Instantly and with no other option, I look up and Him and cry out, “Save me, Jesus!”
Jesus reaches out His hand and He catches me. “You’ve had little faith,” He says, “You were blind, but now you see. I am the Son of God and I have come to save you. You need me because I can rescue you. I can help you fix this life, just let me teach you. I won’t make it easier, but I can walk with you and teach you why people fight, loved ones die, and forgiveness is important. I can teach you why life is hard sometimes, and I can teach you why on earth you are on this earth. Come to me. Fix your eyes on me and do not be afraid. I love you.”
As reality strikes me, I cling to Him and cry tears of praise.
The above story is one that was inspired by the relationships I’ve witnessed of people who get so close to God, just to turn away again – this includes myself, and also by Matthew 14:22-33. More than once, God reached out to me, only to receive rejection. Finally, one day, after many burnt bridges, He just walked out on the water and blew away every preconceived notion I had of who He was, and I learned more about who He is.
If you’re in a similar place, I encourage you… implore you to stop burning the bridge. He won’t make life easier, but He’ll make life make sense.