Run

Run

Well, I guess that’s that. It’s over.” The bridge of our friendship was crossed and set aflame. Raw emotions and bruised feelings put us on opposite sides of a river that could no longer be crossed.

I’m no saint. Four decades of walking through life has left a graveyard of dead friendships behind me. Some are clearly because of my own recklessness with the hearts that have been entrusted to my care. With some, perhaps I’m not so clearly the only one at fault. When we draw near to others, our broken places always end up clashing. Too often it’s too much to bear so we cross a bridge and light a match.

The Wanderer

Some days the weight of those burned bridges is overwhelming. I gaze over my shoulder at the graveyard of dead friendships and grieve. It doesn’t matter who lit the match, the gap is now too wide to cross. Although the world throws around words like forgiveness and reconciliation, they are quickly followed by demands for a pound of flesh. Somebody must pay. It’s easier to stay on our own side of the river, wandering alone down the shore. The message we hear is clear…forgiveness is impossible. Roads that split never reconnect.

As I wander alone, I stumble into chapter 15 of the book of Luke. Although this story is about family, the principle carries through. Words were said. Or perhaps the words were left unsaid. “You’re dead to me,” was communicated. The paths diverged for the two who had cherished each other. One stood firm, the other wandered off. Both were without the other. The relationship was over. Forever.

The wanderer soon learned that life alone was miserable. Others merely saw him as a means to an end and walked away as soon as his usefulness was gone. He looked up from rock bottom, gazing past his shattered hopes and remembered the one who truly loved him. But that bridge was burned. The inferno consumed it quickly and it was gone forever. Even if he could find his way back, he could never repay all he owed. He would never deserve that love again.

Even so, he wandered back toward the one who had never left… Toward the one who had firmly stood at the gate…first watching the prodigal wander away with the father’s money and heart…then watching for any sign of his return. His faithfulness was rewarded when a lone figure emerged on the horizon. The familiar silhouette in the distance brought a flood of joy. Arms outstretched, he ran to reunite with his son. The one who had wandered had the courage to return. The one who remained behind faithfully anticipated the glorious day of his return.

Honestly, bridges are a horrible metaphor for relationships. Our emotions and desires are not matches setting the world ablaze. True and treasured friendships are never burned beyond reconciliation. Like the parable of the prodigal son, humility and love on both sides of that river build new bridges on which we stand. Love says “you are more important than my pride.” Love is quick to forgive and runs toward reconciliation.

Take a look back at your own friendship graveyard. Can these dry bones live again? Jesus teaches us that as long as we’re living, reconciliation is possible. He models it for us. He stands firmly and unwavering upon the truth, arms open wide and ready for us to return. The past remains in the past. We step into our future pure and fully forgiven. We can run to Him, and then we can run to each other.

Who you need to run to? I bet those arms are open wide, waiting for you to take the first step. Run, and let the celebration begin.

Redemption

Redemption

The past can be a weight…the magnitude of the tragedy overwhelming and all-consuming. Every time your eyes close, you see their faces. Sons taken too soon. The anger rises anew. Lost jobs are insignificant compared to the lost loved ones. Lost freedom. But you go on.

 

I met him on a trip. He was hired to do construction. We were building a church. We were also building THE church.

North and South Americans stacked concrete blocks, threw cement, painted walls, and tiled a roof. Shoulder to shoulder, we joyfully toiled from sunrise to sunset until everyone was exhausted. Christians and non-Christians alike, simply working with and loving each other.

Each day on the long walk home, he would pick up scrap wood and construction debris. Someday…eventually…his house would have real walls. A roof. Someday.

But God… God is a rescuer. He is a redeemer.

“…the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners” Isaiah 61:1

Late in the week a decision was made. A decision for Christ. And life became new. Restored. Redeemed. The chains shackling him to the pain of the past were broken.

img_7536

Embraced by both the savior and His church, something special was found. Forgiveness. Community. Reconciliation. Hope. Life.

img_7557His house now has a roof. And walls. His precious family is safer than they have been in years. Because of a church? Because of THE church? Because of the redeemer! Jesus reached out through the obedient workers. The light of Jesus was shining through them all week. It drew him. It gave him a new hope and a new community. And the trajectory of six precious lives changed for eternity.

 

 


This post originally appeared in October, 2013. This is one of my most well-known photographs and one of my most treasured stories. The original events took place in Niteroi, just outside of Porto Alegre, Brazil. It was a privilege to be a witness to these events and an honor to capture a few moments with my camera and words. We are leaving for another mission trip to Brazil soon. As I reflect on all God has done and anticipate what He has in store, I decided to share this particular story again.