“It is inevitable that in working for freedom some individuals and some families must take the lead and suffer: the road to freedom is via the cross” – Albert Luthuli
Albert was a South African revolutionary and Nobel Peace Prize winner who dedicated his life to fighting for a freedom that he never got to experience for himself. His faith and sacrifice, however, allowed a bridge to be built for future generations to access this freedom that God called him to fight for.
We so often hear the phrase “bridge builders” in Christian conversation, but do we really know the commitment and sacrifice it requires to actually be a bridge?
Instead of a lifetime of dedication, we want to skip the hard steps and order a quick and cheap prefab bridge that can be put up in under 24 hours. We aren’t as willing as previous generations to press in for years and years, sometimes even decades and lifetimes, before seeing any results.
But being a bridge often means a lifetime of dedication and a faith for the unseen. It is a decision to keep one’s feet firmly planted in the reality of the present pain of the world, yet reaching our arms out over the pit to the future hope that lies on the other side.
As we stretch ourselves across, our bodies create a bridge that allows others to pass over into this hope. It may mean we spend our lives staying there in the gap, committed to being the support structure for the bridge so that others can cross over.
In Hebrews 11, we hear of men and women who did just that. By faith they offered their lives for something greater than themselves, and although they didn’t see their miracle, they were willing to spend their life pouring into something that would allow other people to step into theirs.
By faith we stand on the edge of the divide, not yet sure of what lies on the other side, not knowing if we’ll ever even see the other side--but we go into the pit anyways. We dive in fully expectant and confident that God’s plans and purposes are perfect.
When I was a kid we used to spend our Friday nights handing out salvation tracts door to door and in our neighborhood shopping malls (yes, I was that kid!). I don’t remember actually “saving” anyone, but there was this one tract that had a picture on it that has stuck with me all these years. It was a little white card with a simple drawing of a big ditch in the ground with a giant cross standing in the gap. The sides of the cross reached to either side of the ditch allowing people to cross over in order to reach God.
You can now find several variations of this picture, but they all point to the same thing: Jesus’s death on the cross created a bridge that allows humanity to access God in a way that wasn’t possible before. He sacrificed his life in order to stand in the gap for us.
All throughout his life and ministry, Jesus built bridges where religion had built walls.
He stood in the gap between Jew and gentile, rich and poor, prostitute and Pharisee – and not everyone was happy about it. He definitely lost credibility among the religious folk and even some of his family weren’t all that convinced that he was doing the right thing.
I grew up in Texas, but have lived in South Africa for the past 10 years. My entire adult life has been spent in a culture very different from the one I grew up in, and I constantly feel trapped between two worlds - not fully "belonging" to either one.
For a long time, I struggled with my identity, this feeling of not belonging. After a while, however, I realized what a unique privilege it was to stand in that gap between these two worlds. Few people are able to see from two opposing perspectives in the way that I have been able to, and this has allowed me to not only find contentment in that space between, but to find my purpose.
God has given me a unique perspective to be able to build a bridge between the Western world and the African world, between the rich and poor, between the conservative and the liberal, between (dare I say it) the capitalist and the socialist.
A lot of people don't get it, and they think I'm crazy (maybe I am a little bit!), but I know from the deepest parts of my soul that God put me here, and that He wants to see His children come together in unity, even in the midst of such great diversity of culture and thought.
What has God purposefully placed on your life?
What gap has He called you to fill?
What divide has He called you to overcome?
I get it – there are so many problems in the world! It is easy to become overwhelmed and feel like there is nothing you can possibly do to make any meaningful difference.
“Human trafficking is too big to tackle.”
“World hunger is impossible to overcome.”
“Inequality is just the way the world is.”
“Racism is too entrenched in society.”
“Addiction is a never ending battle.”
So, why keep fighting?
The truth is, the problems and pain of this world are overwhelming, but if we are willing to play our part of the bigger picture, I believe God will work miracles, and the impossible will be overcome with His goodness and glory.
It’s time to lay down our excuses and pick up our crosses. It’s time to sow, relentlessly and with endurance into the bridge God has called us to build.
It’s time to take God at His word, and reach out by faith towards the promise that is coming.
It’s time for us to stand together in the gap, as Jesus did, to provide a way for others to cross over into freedom. It's time to be a bridge.
Kate is a social entrepreneur and diversity advocate living with her husband and two children in Cape Town, South Africa. She is the founder and managing director of Sparrow Society, an empowerment brand dedicated to raising up strong women in the creative business industry. You can connect with Kate on Instagram and Facebook.