I was in the middle of it… the storm… and it almost took everything.
I had been journeying with a longtime friend, enjoying this crazy world that we live in, and building mass amounts of new memories for our friendship to enjoy for years to come when it hit. Unexpectedly and without warning our once happy trails had ended and we were in the thick of it. The forceful winds ripped us from the strength we once felt united hand in hand, the thunders erupted into a sound that was almost deafening, and the rain overflowed from the heavens like a faucet pushed to its limit. I was lost, disoriented, and unsure if I could even trust what I was seeing through the dense fog that surrounded me. It was everywhere, no matter which way I turned. There was no escaping it.
I tried to come to grips with my surroundings and by the time I had gained my footing again it was over. Just as quickly as it had come, it had ended… but it had destroyed almost everything in its wake.
I searched for my friend amidst the destruction and found their familiar face on the other side of the river that had formed. Its’ depths were uncertain but I took the plunge anyway. The waters continued to rise and I was thrown back and forth amidst the hidden current. It nearly killed me.
I resurfaced and made my way back to the ground I had left not long before and with very little energy left to fight, battered from all that had transpired, I wondered if I would ever get back to how things were before. Did I have enough energy, time, or wisdom to cross the raging river that had now come between us? I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t prepared for this.
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Does this sound familiar? Maybe a little like something you’ve experienced? No… well let’s change a few things around then and see if it starts to become clearer.
Let’s change that friend to a girl you’ve known forever, or a family member, or a leader, or anyone else that you have allowed to enter any part of your life.
And let’s change that storm to a situation that occurred or words that were spoken that caused you to undergo a world of pain. Something so overwhelmingly massive or something so miniscule it is almost a wonder it hurt so much. Something that caused you to see, what you once thought so clear, differently.
And finally, let’s change that river to the growing flood of reasons why it would be easier just to walk away. Too much has happened. Too much has been said. Trying to dive into it all and make your way through, having it consume every part of you, would be too much. It would destroy you for sure.
Is it starting to feel familiar yet?
This is life. This is what we have to endure to have any kind of lasting relationship. The storms that we may see coming and the storms that come when we don’t. We are forced in those moments, in our hurts and pains and offenses, to decide what we will do next. After the destruction has been done and the surface completely altered- we are left with a choice. Walk away or stay and work.
I was there not long ago. And to be honest, I almost chose the first option.
The river was as deep as it was wide and I didn’t think I had it in me. And I surely didn’t know if it would even be worth it in the end. But I was in this friendship for the long haul. I was committed. I knew what had to be done. And I recognized the source of which the storm had come.
Division is not from God. It is an act of war devised in the small mind of our mutually hated enemy. He did this. Satan did this. He doesn’t want healthy friendships, he wants loneliness. He doesn’t want contagious laughter, he wants bitterness. He doesn’t want whole people, he wants brokenness.
And while that may have been the plan, I refuse to play into his hand. He won’t take anymore. Not this friendship. Not this role. Not this purpose. Not this time. Our society is great at being self-righteous and throwing stones. We are professionals at walking away from anyone who does anything to show their human fault-filled colors. We have become great wanderers but not great workers. And we need to fix this.
So I rolled up my sleeves, and planted my feet. I was “in this”. It would look differently than what we had done life together before, but I would be stronger for it. We would be stronger for it. Nothing more would be taken from me. No. More.
So I was settled on it. It was time to build the bridge. But it meant putting together a plan…
How to Build a Bridge:
(In this step you prepare the ground for the work that will be done // it’s about the foundation)
If you are still feeling discombobulated from the whirlwind you just were spewed out from, do not move. Not one inch. Take a minute and process it all. When we attempt to do anything after things have been so drastically altered we fall flat on our face. We say hurtful things, and retaliate in hurtful ways. We call ourselves justified but we just cause the damage to be worse. So don’t do that. Instead stop and ask yourself, “what-the-what”? Yes, I’m serious.
Ask yourself, “WHAT am I feeling ?” By giving the emotions you are wrestling with a name you will have successfully started the journey to healing from them. Call them out by name. Every one of them. And then finish this sentence, “THE reason is…”. No one wakes up and decides to have an emotion. They are responders. Whatever you are feeling has a cause so speak it out. Shout it if you need. You have been hurt and it’s ok to shut yourself away for a minute and acknowledge that you are not okay. Just this once it is okay to not be okay. But once you have named it and acknowledged it, then you must stop it from consuming you. Ask “WHAT does the Bible say”? This simple question will stop that thing from settling on you and attaching to your very being. You experienced bitterness, but you are not bitter. You experienced loneliness, but you are not alone. You experienced sadness, but you are not sad. Whatever you are facing- there is a scripture for that. So speak the word out over your situation. Let it be heard louder than your hurt.
Proverbs 4:20-27 My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight; keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
When you have fully processed the storm, and focused your mind, move on to step 2.
(In this step you construct the frame for which the bridge will be built on // it’s about the boundaries)
Now that you have waited for things to settle by processing what you just went through, it is now time to talk it out, sometimes the hardest part of all. I am not talking about to your siblings or your fellow employees or your other friend who didn’t hurt you. No, we need to have a sit down, face-to-face conversation with the person through whom the hurt happened. Will this always be possible or plausible, well in extreme cases- no. But for the rest of us, it is an assured YES! We are still called to confront our offenses. No matter if the relationship can be mended to complete restoration or not. Because what we don’t resolve, we repeat. So it’s time to start resolving some things… for our future selves.
Sit down, share your heart, express your frustrations and then hear them out, be patient, and pray for each other. Decide within yourself that you would rather be reconciled than right and respond accordingly.
Ephesians 4:1-3 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
(In this step you add the planks that will allow you to walk across // it’s about the continual work)
And then there was this. Forgiveness; the act of waking up each day and choosing not to take that plank that was meant to get you one step closer to the other side, back to the shore you started on. It is a continual act of doing one of the hardest things you will ever do. Letting go. You are not saying they were justified, you are not saying you are weak, you are just saying you won’t let whatever happened steal from you. Not your friendship, not your joy, not your peace, not your purpose, not your confidence… none of it. Forgiveness means you have paid the price and it can take from you no more.
This is what Jesus did for us. He understood and fully processed the problem that came between us and Him- sin. He confronted it and resolved the issue by paying the ultimate price and saying our sin could take no more. His sacrifice was enough and we were granted our forgiveness. He fought for a relationship with a bunch of broken people that would continue to break His heart time and time again- but He did it anyway.
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
So if you are facing the aftermath of a vicious storm and wondering if you can build that bridge, the answer is yes. Take a deep breath and ask God to help you as you process, confront, and forgive. It won't be easy but it will be worth it.
Keep watch for the storms of offenses, or jealousy, or bitterness, or anger, or disagreement (yes that’s a big one). Beware of the ways they sneak into your lives and sliver their way into your hearts with their divisive natures. Stand your ground girls, and prepare. As long as our enemy lives, so will his schemes. It isn’t a matter of if but when. Gird your loins, girls. Yes, gird them. The storm is coming.
And if the girl on the other side of that raging river has already turned to walk away, remind yourself that not everyone can be reconciled. Despite doing everything perfectly and forgiving the deepest of hurts, some people can not work through their own emotions... and sometimes God allows those storms to prune others from our lives. So if this is you, take a deep breath and rest in knowing you have done what God has required of you - and allow yourself to move on. It will hurt, and others may try to make a mess of it, but God will see you through. Be appreciative for the time and memories shared, and then move on.
Ephesians 6: 10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.