Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (TESOL and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have five kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
“When you take the leap, we will be there to catch you,” he said, his palms faced up and arms opened wide. I stood in the silence, no words came to mind. The leap was terrifying, even foolish. And these smiling people said they’d be there for us, that they’d catch us.
I knew full well that they had no clue what they were promising. They knew nothing of the shunning. They could only wince with compassion at the emotional pain we had and would continue to feel as we turned to walk away from everything we had ever known. The threats, the letters promising our eternal condemnation, the phone calls, the loss of family, friends, home, job, identity, future - these people knew nothing of the cost.
And how could they? They were elders in a nearby church, but they had little experience with loving a young, vulnerable family whose ground beneath them had just given way - the ground they thought was solid and truth and right, maybe even the only right in the world.
But I believed them. I remember longing for someone to tell us it would all be OK, and that the longing was filled, even just for a second, with his words. Someone would stand in it with us. Someone was going to catch us.
Of course, I knew enough of God and His Word to trust that it was ultimately He who would sustain us and care for us. Yet, in that basement meeting, where we offered up our story, I needed humans with audible words and warm hugs to meet us where we were. Desperately.
I don’t tell our story often. It doesn’t go down well over coffee. It’s too much to drop into casual conversation. So, it’s reduced to lines like, “Jay and I were raised in a religious group, kind of like the Amish, and then we left.” Those who’ve been raised in such groups, get it without me saying another word - while those who haven’t, never will, despite a world full of words. And, for years, I’ve left it as that.
Lately, however, I’m seeing the full circle, squinting hard and making out the form of what was and how Divine hands used it to lay a foundation of what is and what will be. Our stories provide the shape of our todays and our tomorrows. And so, our story, our foundation, includes bricks of toxic religion and pain. Yet, it's on that structure that Redemption shows up best and brings our purpose to life:
Because we needed be excommunicated in order to understand outsiders.
We needed to be rejected by family and friends in order to understand God’s ideal for family.
We needed to be steeped in our own religious subculture and then try to enter mainstream society in order to understand what it means to cross cultures.
We needed to leave our spiritual homeland and start over with nothing in order to understand the narrative of refugees and immigrants.
We needed to be desperate and alone in order to experience love, real and incarnational love that reached into our world and built a bridge out of it.
We needed to be the recipients of someone’s ministry and prayers in order to know how it feels to be the outreach focus.
We needed to be cut off in order to be grafted in.
We needed to be the damned, the lost cause in order to ever understand why the Gospel is good news.
We needed to need a bridge in order to be the ones who’d eventually start the ministry of The Bridge.
This series is on being a bridge-builder. In short, it’s about how to be like those individuals eleven years ago who let God show up in their words and deeds and forever changed our little family. But, it's not a series about our story; it's a series about how Redemption made our story useful, even valuable, in a greater story. If Jay and I know anything about being a bridge-builder, it's because we were the ones stuck on an island. If we understand anything about the power of meeting people where they are and standing in the gap, it's because that's how we were rescued - by God, through average people.
It’s a series about how to rethink everyday relationships and their divine purpose.
And, it's about knowing with such certainty that the Gospel is good news for outsiders, that the way in which we relate and interact is forever changed.
I hope you'll join me for the next 31 days of Being a Bridge-Builder.