I’m simple but complex. To me, those things are not at odds with each other. The opposite of simple is “complicated”— not complex. Complication is horizontal. Complexity is vertical. When you’re life is complicated it has a lot of interconnected parts popping off in multiple directions. On the other hand, a complex life is having limited things that affect you in multiple ways. I’m simple. I love Jesus. I love myself. I love you…in that order. I pray. I live. I write. I’ve spent decades on personal reflection and development to gain a high level of self-awareness. I try to use what I’ve learned to help you. I know what I like and I don’t waste time on things I know I don’t like. I know who I am and I am extremely clear on who I am not.
Having said that…
One of my defining personality traits is the inclination and extraordinary ability to burn bridges. I can recall my grandmother warning me many times not to burn bridges when I was girl. “You might have to come back that way again,” she’d say. I also recall thinking, “Nah.” and really meaning it. Here I am thirty years later and I’m still refuting the age old wisdom to never burn bridges.
A Time to Burn
This week’s Shine TYC Newsletter takes a look at Elisha in 1 Kings 19 and the discipline it takes to go “All In” for your purpose. Elisha is my “Burn and Turn” hero. Once he understood what God created him to do, he burned down his current life so he wouldn’t turn back.
Listen, my grandmother was right. You cannot walk aimlessly through life burning the bridges behind you. However, you can intentionally, purposefully, and with great thought and prayer, burn that sucker down. But how do you know when to “burn and turn” ?
#1 When God Says So
This is the most obvious reason to burn a bridge, but it’s a lot easier to say than to follow. We can’t hear God say, “Burn it down!” But we can, through prayer and study, understand the will of God for our lives. Let’s say you’ve decided to become a Christian or….to take your faith more seriously. That’s a time to burn and turn. To live for God and in the way that honors what we believe, we have to burn the paths to our pasts. Jesus laid down all the burden of our sins so don’t go back across the bridge to pick it up again. Be free indeed!
#2 When You’re Being Followed
Let’s face it. Making a decision to change doesn’t always sit well with the people around you. If you decide to remove yourself from a painful or unproductive situation, it will likely try to follow you especially if your pain is the essence that keeps it alive. When you decide to live on purpose, every distraction and disappointment from the past will chase after you in an effort to stall your progress. If you are being followed, burn the bridge and let the flames light your path forward.
#3 When You Need to Commit
A big reason I’ve had to burn bridges in my life is to keep myself from turning back. Like Elisha, when you have something hard to do, it’s best to limit your options to retreat. The first couple of years after I left the corporate world, I still worked as a marketing and strategy consultant for a few big companies. At the time I convinced myself I was only doing it for the money. Deep down, I knew I was simply trying to keep the door open in case I “needed” to go back. In order for me to purposefully run Shine TYC and the KA Company, I had to burn the bridge to my former career and commit to where I was going. If you need to commit to purpose, burn that bridge that leads to comfort. By the way, this is the same bridge you need to burn when you get married. (See #2)
#4 When the Bridge is Broken
You barely made it across the first time. Now, you’re contemplating whether you can ever get back over that broken bridge again. Don’t do it. That raggedy bridge has rotting planks and cracks in the concrete. It’s misaligned. You made it over. Now, stay on this side of the broken bridge. The problem with revisiting a broken bridge is that you rarely end up back where you want to be. Instead, you get stuck in the brokenness. Unable to move forward and unable to return. Don’t risk it. Burn it down.
#5 When They Can’t Come
A painful bridge to burn is the one with people waving and cheering you on from the other side. We’ve all seen the stories of people who tried to drag their current world into the wonderful world of purpose. Sometimes it works, like in the case of Lebron James. Most times it doesn’t. Leaving a bridge for people who aren’t going your way is not only a hindrance to you but it can be harmful for them as well. Love people enough to burn the bridges that might harm them.
Burn In Love
When Elisha burned all his livestock he fed the meat to the people he was leaving behind. Burning bridges does not have to be a massacre. Your relationships don’t have to end with a shoot out. Burn your bridges in love. I have certainly left some bridges in a full blaze and for that I am very sorry. Though I regret leaving those wounded bodies to burn I do not, for one second, regret burning those bridges.
I have now become accustomed to burning bridges in love. Burning bridges without harming others requires you to be clear on the direction in which God is calling you. Purposefully and thoughtfully burning bridges has proven beneficial for me. I’m able to let my light shine through the cracks with a fire behind me that lights the way.
I think my grandmother would be okay with that.