You’re partway up a mountain, thousands of feet above sea level. You’re standing on a ledge, 100 feet in the air, surrounded by trees and mountains. And now that you’re up so high, you don’t know if you can go through with it.
But it’s too late now.
You step to the edge.
You’re scared as hell, in spite of the ropes and gear that hold you securely to the guide wire. But the rush you get from gliding in the air, wind rushing past your ears, stomach somersaulting, is addicting.
Every jump, it happens again. Even when you know what’s coming, the same reactions occur, because every experience is one of falling, gliding, feet dangling in the air, no solid ground.
I used to think following Jesus was like standing on a bridge. But now I think it’s more like flying through the forest.
There’s a song we sing in church that has the line ‘wider than the gap you filled,’ which reminds me of a favorite childhood song by Point of Grace, ‘there’s a bridge to cross the great divide….there’s a cross to bridge the great divide’.
This image of Jesus-as-a-bridge is so pervasive, it even has it’s own comic strip, minus the laughs.
I grew up on bridge theology.
I was taught to stare at the precipice below. We had to know how far the fall was, to beware of stepping off the bridge. Living on the bridge is a cracked way of viewing Jesus, a shard of the real thing. By reducing Jesus to a mere gap-filler, it keeps our focus on what he did, not what he is doing. Which keeps my focus on my sin, on what I am doing and not who I am.
The foundation of the bridge is fear.
We’re afraid of what happens if we fall. And so we stay on that bridge, the stone floor growing tentacles around us. They sneak up our legs, encompassing us in fear and rules, until finally we are statues, adorning the bridge, bringing glory to it.
Of course we have to fear other people, other beliefs, issues. We’re taught to fear ourselves, our own desires and needs that can so easily go awry. Anything we think might cause us to fall off the bridge is to be feared, for to fall is to die.
The bridge gets built, rule by rule, fear by fear, boundaries and walls erected over time, to keep us in, keep us safe, keep us on the one true path to heaven. We can’t take a chance on anything that might pull us over the edge.
The cost is too high to live that fearlessly. To live that free.
But if the bridge is fear, then glass is love.
It’s microscopic and telescopic. We see through it darkly, but we see.
Love points to worlds far beyond our own, worlds full of mystery and wonder. You can’t explore from a bridge. You can’t gain insights and understanding from other people when you are concentrating on not falling into the precipice.
Telescopic love inspires and creates desire. Like explorers of old, it’s a widening gaze that invites us to new adventures.
Microscopic love brings the details of the lives around us into view. Hurts and dreams are amplified when we take the time to study.
Love-like-glass helps us see the world as Jesus sees it.
It invites us into the worlds of the homeless, sick, depressed, lonely, and broken. It transforms our apathetic oblivion into a vision of poets, prophets, and priests.
Life can’t be lived on a bridge
Even if it was large enough to hold all 6 billion of us. We would stand, huddled together, staring down at the ever-present pit that threatened to swallow us. There is no interaction on the bridge, no give and take, no stories, no questions, no wrestling.
The orientation of the bridge life is inward. The darkness of our heart is a constant threat to our survival, and therefore requires all of our effort. It doesn’t teach us to love people. It turns us into sin-spotters. It doesn’t tell us we are image-bearers, created to do amazing things. It keeps us focusing on all the ways we screw up.
The orientation of the glass life is outward. We see through, focusing on what’s on the other side. We consider the other more than we do ourselves.
When we sing, can we get a little less cross and a little more resurrection? A lot less Friday and a lot more Sunday? Can Sunday mornings be a place where we encourage each other to see as Jesus sees? Is it possible that our safe and comfortable space can be a place where we learn to love our neighbor, know and serve the other, while knocking down the walls that we’ve built to create the other in the first place?
Leaving the bridge way of life can feel a lot like jumping off a ledge.
Questioning the fundamentals of your faith, only to find they weren’t very fundamental at all, feels a lot like zipping through the forest, with nothing solid around you. But in jumping, you find how extraneous all those stones holding the bridge are.
You find you only need a guide wire to lead you through the trees.
What do you think? Has your experience been different? Do you think the church places too much focus on the bridge?