Sometimes everyday events in our lives have prophetic significance – divine lessons to be mined when we take a moment to step back and ponder.
Today I built a bridge with a Native American friend, John* (not his real name). Literally, we built a bridge.
There is a creek running behind our house, with woods on the other side promising endless hours of hiking and tree house building for our children. We’d been meaning to build a bridge across it for some time, and I finally got around to it today with the help of my Native friend.
But there was another bridge being built besides the bridge made of pressure treated lumber and galvanized screws.
I first met John at a simple church gathering in a residence hall at Haskell Indian Nations University. He was very likeable and I was struck by his intelligence and outgoing personality. As the weeks went on, John, opened up about God more, but he often took an extremely cynical, argumentative posture against Jesus and the Bible. I now only attend periodically, since students lead the group, but one day I was told he even set an inappropriate “gentlemen’s” magazine next to the snacks at the group. The student I mentor asked me for advice, “What should I do!?” I was convinced he was testing whether the other students who had made commitments to follow Jesus would still love him after these types of displays. Though his charades were sometimes distracting, I really liked him and thought often that he’d make a great leader for Jesus.
Earlier this week, John came over to my house with a couple other guys from the group. As we walked in the woods behind my house, one of the other Haskell students asked John, “Are you ready to get saved yet?”
The following twenty minutes were frustrating and draining. John spoke on and on about his beliefs, his criticisms of the Bible and Christianity, etc. Apologetic responses I thought of only led to a new tangent that seemed to go no where.
That night, I poured out my heart to God. I was frustrated over how difficult it was for John to get saved and how unreceptive he seemed to the gospel.
“Isn’t your gospel powerful, Lord?” “Doesn’t your Spirit work with us, drawing people to yourself?” “John seems open to the gospel, but when we start talking, it seems like nothing works!”
That night, I decided I would finally build my bridge. I called John and asked him if he would come spend the day helping me. To my surprise, he said he’d be happy to.
The next day, before I picked him up, I went down into my office to pray. My prayer, worship, and reading time moved into praying for others. As I prayed for John, I distinctly remember feeling an impression – Was it God speaking to me? Though I knew nothing of his family background, I had the impression that John’s mom had rejected him, and that this was one of the emotional wounds that prevented him from opening up to God.
Later that day…
As the day went on, we measured, sawed, drilled screws, and carried lumber back and forth. We sweat and we laughed. Ethan played in the creek, catching frogs and water bugs. When we finally took a break, we sat on the bridge, looking at the half-built bridge.
The time seemed right. I asked him about his family and about his mom. I’d started to earn his trust. He told me his story.
His dad left him when he was small. His mom raised him, and would tell him about God, but she was an alcoholic. Around the age of seven or eight years old she would get blasted drunk and would yell at John, saying that she never wanted him and still didn’t want him around. When he was ten, his mom developed cancer and died. He said he loved his mom and knows she didn’t mean it, but I could see where the pains of rejection had made it extremely difficult for him to trust God or anyone getting close to him.
A bridge was being built.
John and I talked a long time and even go to pray together as we sat on that bridge. John didn’t accept Christ today, but I believe a bridge is half built.
A key mentor in my life used to say, “Beneath all the reasons people have for not believing in God is often an emotional knot you gotta find and – by the power of the Holy Spirit – begin to untangle.”
Please pray for John, that his knot will come untangled and that his bridge to God will be finished soon.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, may you also untie knots and build bridges in others lives. Sometimes it just takes love, time, good conversation, and a work project to tackle together. 🙂