I love bridges, I think they are beautiful! Bridges are useful and practical. Their structural integrity can be amazing and their architectural design inspiring. Bridges are iconic pieces of human engineering that have been photographed, painted, and post carded.
Bridges are a vital part of society. They have made a great impact in the advancement of civilization. I marvel at the merger of artistic talent and engineering skill that it takes to build a bridge. To me bridges are an incredible combination of form and function that we often overlook.
For several weeks I have been part of a group studying how we can build bridges to others. Not physical bridges, but relational bridges. We have specifically focused on those whose culture and society may feel very different from our own. That study has got me thinking and asking questions.
We are great at building bridges. We are also great at building barriers. They both dramatically affect our society! At times, I build barriers that separate me from others. At times, I build bridges that connect me with others. So, which of these do I do the most of? Am I better at bridge building or barrier building?
When I ask myself that question, I quickly answer; “I am a better bridge builder.” I like to think that I look for ways to make better connections with people. But when I think about some of the language I use, I have to admit to doing some fairly impressive barrier building as well. Too often I find myself using words like “them” or “they” or “those people’ … words that imply I’m not part of that group. More than I would like to admit, these words flow naturally when I talk about a different religion, a different culture, or a political party other than the one I agree with the most.
Paul, a follower of Jesus and a writer of much of the New Testament, said,
“When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness… Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”
(1 Corinthians 9:22 NLT)
“I try to find common ground with everyone.” What a powerful statement! What a great way to approach every conversation! The relational bridges we build with others are what move us forward, give us support, connect us, and bring us unexpected joy. Just as physical bridges are important to society, so are relational bridges. When we build barriers instead of bridges, it only serves to reinforce us if we are right and multiply our ignorance if we are wrong.
Let’s look for ways to build bridges of peace and hope instead of barriers of isolation and pride.