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.