Rushing in, plopping down. Balancing baby, sipping an iced latte. Goldfish crackers crushed and crumbs spread. Waffle syrup decorating the table. Up and out to drive the carpool.
I just had brunch with a 40-something woman, mom to four kids and a sister in Christ. We’re more alike than different, even though I’m 51, single (never married, no kiddos) and rarely have sippy cups or fish crackers on my person. How do I enter into her journey with empathy, and vice versa, when our lives are radically different? Gospel bridges!
Discovering Jesus-centered connecting points is one way we offer life-transforming, godly love to others. God has been teaching me about cultivating gospel bridges from my personal experiences, into those of others. To “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), I must interpret my life (including joys and tears), and the lives of others, through the lens of Christ. When I practice this, I’m enabled to enter in and journey with women even when I don’t feel what they feel, or have experienced what they have.
Gospel-centered connecting points are:
- being a woman made in the image of God, uniquely designed for his purposes
- being loved by God yet needy of daily forgiveness and patience
- my personal experiences of pain, stress, carrying responsibilities, loss, disappointment, betrayal, and heartbreak
- my Hebrews 12:1-2s…you know, the sins and encumbrances that can entangle and distract me from keeping my eyes on Jesus
- areas of unbelief in my life that are tough to overcome
Understanding ourselves and others through a gospel view (2 Cor. 5:16-17) reveals this: we are all deeply loved by God and needy of the gospel! That realization is a bridge for me to connect with the 40-something mom whose calendar and purse (external realties) are so different from mine. We both have responsibilities and challenges that we must depend on Jesus for. We both want to live with purpose and love those in our path (whether a husband, children, coworkers, elderly parents, counselees, friends, etc.). This faithful momma and wife wants to live out her calling and ‘roles’ as a living sacrifice to Jesus. So do I! We both face our personal brokenness through battling things like depression and unsubsiding grief (her) and me with insecurity and pride. She has kids who need meals, to be driven places, listened to, comforted and disciplined. Each week I have brokenhearted women reach out for help regarding personal sin struggles, or because they’ve discovered their husband has been sexually unfaithful. I have an elderly father thousands of miles away who I seek to Skype with 2x a week, and financial supporters who want to hear from me about what is happening in my ministry.
You see, this sister in Christ and I have very different worlds externally, but on the inside, we really need the same things! We need wisdom, comfort, exhortation, and the truth of the Word specifically applied to our specific circumstances. We need Jesus and his gospel!
- Allow us to imitate Christ. Consider the Son of God, who existed for all eternity becoming man and coming to earth, sinless and unwavering in sacrificial love for others. Radically different from us yet the One who loves perfectly.
- Are costly especially when our experience is opposite of another. Such as when you are squealing because you’re pregnant and another just had her third miscarriage. Or when you are struggling in a tough marriage and your friend’s husband seems to be like Jesus with skin on. Or when a best friend gets engaged and you can’t find any godly guys to date. Or when singleness and ministry allow you to be mobile and unencumbered and married friends feel bound down and stuck. Or when a friend is struggling deeply because of her broken experience of physical intimacy with her husband and you are sexually abstinent. Jesus calls us to get ‘outside’ of ourselves in loving others, which means we can’t let our personal story (what is and has been, what isn’t and won’t be) hinder us from moving towards others. His plan is that we follow him, wherever he goes!
When my mom died and I was in the throes of raw grief, a friend walked across a gospel bridge towards me. I felt alone in my grief and Jayne gently counseled me, “Only Jesus can really get how you are feeling Ellen. He’s the only one who lives inside of you!” Her words were simple and gospel-gold. She wasn’t in the midst of grief or loneliness, but her words of truth changed my perspective.
My mom’s death—and all the emotional trauma that happened as a result of losing her—is one of the main gospel bridges that allows me to weep with wives who are weeping in the face of their husband’s sexual unfaithfulness. These are radically different experiences of loss, grief, and relational pain…but similar in how they propel us towards the cross and a Savior who understands our pain—who came to heal our broken hearts and forgives us for our sinful responses to being sinned against.
What bridges can God lead you across today? This week—into the lives of women who have lives and circumstances that are radically different from yours?