One common English idiom touts the wisdom of delaying plans or worries about an upcoming event by saying that we can “Cross that bridge when we come to it.” This makes perfect sense. We can’t cross a bridge when it’s way off in the distance somewhere, can we? Of course not. That’s like getting a good night’s sleep so we’re rested for Easter dinner. The time to get that good rest is the night before which would be Easter Eve, right?
The idiom makes an assumption that when a bridge is imminent, we will find a way to cross it.
This is where I want to back up. Why? Because I don’t think all bridges should be crossed.
When I worked as a family therapist, the parents of a rebellious teenage girl asked that I have a conversation with there daughter about her sexual behavior. This topic was one of particular concern to her parents. According to mom and dad, this girl was 15 going on 50.
Me: So where are you on the issue of sex?
Girl: Did my parents say something to you?
Me: Yes. But that’s not why I’m asking. I’m asking because you’re a teenage girl. And you have a neck full of hickeys.
Girl: (covering her hickeys by pulling up her shirt a little) Oh.
Girl: Well, I make-out and stuff. But it’s not like I’m planning to have sex.
Me: So how far will you go?
Girl: (squirming a little) I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that part. I just know that I’m not having sex until I’m married. Or maybe when I’m in college.
Me: So in the whelm of sexual behavior, you’ll make-out with boys. But that’s it? Nothing else?
Girl: Well, maybe. I don’t know. But no sex.
Me: If you slip past making out and into say fondling or groping, that’s okay, right? Because that’s not sex?
Girl: (squirming) Maybe. I don’t know. But I already said that I’m not going to have sex.
Me: Do you think if you shot several levels past making-out and got all the way over to the ALMOST HAVING SEX BUT NOT QUITE side of the equation that you could stop yourself short of having sex?
Girl: I don’t know. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
The girl became pregnant within the year. I guess she did cross that bridge. But the reason she crossed that bridge is that she had failed to make a commitment to NOT cross that bridge.
Some bridges should NOT be crossed. Some bridges you shouldn’t even think about crossing but you should rather make a conscious, intentional choice to NOT cross that bridge…or even approach it.
The sign in the top picture says: Do Not Run, Sit, Jump, or Play on the Bridge. That’s good advice to us about the bridges in life that we are tempted to cross when we should stay far away from them. If you have a teenager at home, I hope you’re having those conversations regularly about bridges, and I hope you’re saying things like “Just because you CAN cross a bridge doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”
When should you cross the bridge on the question of smoking and taking drugs? You don’t cross that bridge when you come to it. You talk about it and decide long before that bridge is in sight. And you keep talking about it and recommitting…because once you pass by the first bridge, there will be many more along the journey.
DANGER: BRIDGE OUT! Know which ones are out. And avoid them.