The past three years, my heart broke when someone in my family left us. They left again and again. They didn’t die. They disconnected. Didn’t come home at all the ritual gathering times. They stay where they are, in their small part of the world, and they rarely crack the door to speak to others.

I don’t talk about it much because I don’t know what needs to be said. And I certainly won’t name names. What good would it do?

I let the wound sit deep in my gut for the first two years since the separating began, and then God nudged and I gave up the anger. That was last October. I forgave. An ugly, wrangling forgiveness, God coaxing and me hanging on. But I let it go.  And amazingly, they came out of the wilderness and sent a letter and pleaded for forgiveness only weeks after I decided to let it go.

I thought maybe all would be right again, but there was still work to do. I just didn’t know what it was. My family sits and scratches our heads, mostly over the hurt but still befuddled as to how we might woo our lost one home.

This one gave me goosebumps. Come home, little one.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen the cord between us growing thinner and longer, and I’ve wondered if there was anything I could do. So now, I’m asking simply, “What’s my part, God?” But I feel like he answered before I even asked.

I need to build them a bridge. A bridge back to true family and no-strings-attached love and the people who remember all the stories that make up their one big story, from learning to walk to the silly way they used to say, “God loves you so muuuuuch. To the night much later when they held my drunken head over the toilet in mercy even though I’d never returned the favor.

I’m building a bridge back to the new family they always wanted but never had because we didn’t know how to do it. Didn’t know how to love well.

But when you lose something precious, you learn to love in a hurry. Or at least the invitation to love is there.

So I’m building that bridge, and it’s made of funny stories in emails and picture messages of my children and inside jokes that are maybe only mine to understand. Sometimes they respond with something that sounds like affection, but it’s so hard to pull love from a few letters on a screen. I can do more though, and maybe in the messages, I’ll include the prayers I pray, and I’ll try not to sound judgmental but always arms-wide-open because I don’t want to scare the little bird away.

But no matter all the good I do, the rescuing will always be God’s job. I’m just a bridge builder for them, and for anyone who is lost. For any who don’t know the wild love of Father God who loves more extravagantly than me. The Papa who already knows the end of the story and isn’t worried or pacing, just sad. The one who stands at the end of the drive every evening, his hand shielding his eyes from the setting sun, wishing, willing his children home. Just like we do for our one who is gone.

I hope they read this letter and know that I miss them, that these words are their path home, if they want to take it. But if not, they’ll still be loved the 900 miles and more.

Maybe someone you love is long gone, but if you can reach out, if it’s safe and you can forgive, then stretch out your arms and your words into the darkness.

And build a bridge.

4 thoughts on “Maybe She Needs You to Build Her A Bridge

  1. This has been such a challenge for me recently. I have a family member as well that really has done damage to me and even to my new marriage (though she has never met my husband). I’ve created space between us, but I also have forgiven her, and I’ve expressed that to her. Even so, I still told her that I don’t know that I’m ready to continue contact with her because she still refuses to admit that her actions were wrong, which tells me that opening the door to her is setting myself up for more pain. I know forgiveness can occur without immediate reconciliation, so I’m still praying for God to do the changing, but I’m really torn about how to extend a bridge. If only there was some way to share my life, but not have to hear any commentary on it from her. I don’t know.


    1. So true. I had to create space between myself and this person for a while also, but a lot of it was due to my hurt and I had not chosen to forgive. As I said at the end, “if it’s safe, build a bridge”. Due to some of the reconciliation we’ve had in the past few months, even though this person is distant, I can say that it was safe to build that bridge. For those who do not acknowledge wrongdoing, then we do have to forgive, but as far as actually reaching out, we have to use wisdom because it may not be emotionally safe for us to do that. People do not have the right to continue reaching into our lives and hurting us again and again. That’s what boundaries are for. Proverbs tell us that those who do not have control over their own spirits are like cities without walls. We want to use our walls to keep ourselves and our families safe so that we can truly extend love without enabling someone’s bad behavior.

      Girl, it’s a very hard place you’re in and I’m sorry. There are no cookie cutter answers but God is in the reconciliation business so if he started that for me, I bet he will for you as well. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here.

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