Keep building bridges

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What if we kept performing the same job all our lives and expected things to remain the same? We all know that situation doesn't happen.

So what can we do to prepare for what's next as our lives twist and turn?

People develop from infants into adults, attend school and search for recreational, social and spiritual avenues they like. They try to discover purpose and perform their duties so they can amount to something (whatever that means). Everyone's definition of amounting to something is different.

How do we get from one thing to another? By building bridges as we go. Often it seems the bridges, for some, are already built. Although the Holy Spirit places good choices in our minds -- those that bring peace and joy -- it's sometimes difficult to know when the Holy Spirit (good) is speaking to us and the evil spirit is prodding us. The evil spirit brings opportunities that, even while promising excitement and success, cause insecurity and stress. You're apprehensive when you think of your new venture.

We begin to build bridges from birth. We learn maturity skills, decide to study and earn good grades, decide what vocation we're drawn toward and then pick the sort of education we'll pursue. All bridges connect one stage to the next while traveling from point A to point B.

When we're younger, we build different bridges than when we're middle-aged and older. But the one sure thing is that we never continue on our way without having to cross those bridges. Make sure they are sturdy ones that lead to where you want to go and what you desire to accomplish next in your life.

Changing jobs or retiring is an especially crucial time, before which people need to confidently make a decision concerning what they intend to do next. If you've been planning as you go -- learning new skills, looking for other job opportunities or participating more in community and family activities -- you can change directions with eager anticipation rather than fear. You will have built bridges that will help you cross from one environment, workplace or state of life into another.

Although I've often felt I have initiated the things I do, the Holy Spirit has been the director. It's true that it requires time, effort and funds to acquire new training. People might spend enormous amounts of time on the phone to get information and even visit establishments that model what they desire to do. We all know, deep within, when it's time to make a change, but taking the next step into an unknown is intimidating. Having built a bridge into another profession or lifestyle beforehand can make all the difference.

We even build bridges when we buy clothes for work. Is our attire appropriate for the environment? Will it help us connect? When we interact with neighbors, co-workers and family the kind of relationships we establish can build or tear down what we desire to achieve -- that goal of cooperation, love and good will.

What kinds of bridges are we building as we journey toward God's kingdom in eternity? We build bridges through faith. That scenario dates back as far as the era of the early Hebrews. The faith of the ancients is evident in Hebrews 11:7 where "Noah, being warned about what was not yet seen built an ark for the salvation of his household."

This Lenten season offers the perfect opportunity to go inside our lives and evaluate what bridges we need to build -- or tear down -- next while we're striving to make the kingdom of God our permanent home. Look within.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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