I sat in the wingback chair wearing a smile hopefully wide enough to cover the disappointment rattling around inside my empty heart. Another night of winning the world for Jesus had come, so here I was: Miss Sunday School teacher visiting people I didn’t know, accompanied by people I barely knew, trying to look as pleasant as a person could who had just decided the whole thing was a hopeless waste of time.
What a team we were. First there was Mr. Barnhill, 85 if a day and looking even older. Next to him sat Andy, a really nice guy who apparently had been born without one solitary enthusiasm gene in his entire body. And, of course, me.
“Great!” I thought as I nodded to whatever Andy was saying; “What a team. One is old as dirt and the other dry as dust.”
The couple we spoke with didn’t help matters either. I had prayed for a sign God was still doing something in my life before leaving home. Visions of some Hell’s Angel fresh out of prison crying out for God’s mercy had accompanied me in the back seat of the car as Dust drove and Dirt sat silent beside him. And what did we get? Mr. and Mrs. Nice! Both listened politely as Andy shared the Gospel. Another dull night fit for my equally dull and meaningless life.
“Thank you,” Mr. Nice replied to Andy politely, “but I have no use for those who murdered my family.”
Whoa; where did that come from? Ten minutes later I knew. The man’s family had all died at Dachau. He told of how Hitler and other “Christians” labeled them all Christ killers and deemed them not human. Unfit to breathe the same air as their superior Arian “Christian” lungs. Years as a Rabbi finally ended in him renouncing God completely.
He stood, making it obvious this visit was about to be over. “I could never believe in the Christ of such people.”
Find a bridge.
We had been taught to look for a bridge from where we were to where the ones we spoke to were. What kind of bridge could the three of us hope to build? Andy’s face betrayed the sheer panic that had already set in on him. I was Miss Nobody who had never been anywhere. And then, of course, there was Methuselah who had not grunted a complete sentence since the three us set out on this fiasco.
Find a bridge? Give me a break!
Andy and I were edging toward the door when Mr. Barnhill cleared his throat. Still seated, he peered over his glasses and spoke; “I was there.”
His words were so matter-of-fact, so simple, and yet so compelling all we could do was ease back into our seats: Mr. and Mrs. Nice, Andy and me. With his audience in place, Mr. Barnhill continued. “I was a private in the 45th. Didn’t want to go over there but thought it was my Christian duty to help rescue people from that sawed off madman. Think maybe you could listen to an old warhorse like me?”
I don’t recall what else was said. What I do remember is how an embittered Jewish ex-Rabbi and a long since retired American soldier met each other in the middle of that bridge: one listening intently as he was introduced to a Christ he had never heard of and never known; the other speaking as though eternity depended on his every word.
Find a bridge.
What had I been thinking? It was neither fate nor coincidence that brought Andy, Mr. Barnhill and me to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Nice. There was one who was there waiting on us when we arrived. One who had walked with a pimply faced private through the horrors of Dachau. One who had shown mercy to an orphan of the madness of war. One who had been patient with a self-involved Sunday School teacher. One who had built every plank of that bridge with his own person.
Find a bridge?
Next time I’ll remember who is already there. The Bridge Builder.
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