In 2016 Jerry Bridges, author of numerous bestselling books, died a few months before the release of his final book, The Blessing of Humility. Now and then over the next several weeks we’ll be posting tributes to Jerry and his books by people whose lives his writing touched.
Though I met Jerry Bridges, my parents knew him better: My mom still tells the story of dropping by his house for directions to a coworker’s house. She had a pot of chili in the car and it spilled all over the car floor. Jerry insisted on carrying the baby (me) back to the car. He peeked in the car door and said (with typical understatement), “Oh my, that is a mess.”
One of the reasons Jerry could write a book like The Gospel for Real Life (my favorite of his many books) was that he was a real person. He was a bestselling author, but he was not some super-charged charismatic leader. For most of his life he was an office worker. I can relate to someone who has a job and wants to do it well. It was in large part his spiritual growth while working administrative jobs that overflowed to leave a legacy with millions.
My dad first met Jerry when Jerry hired him to be an internal auditor for The Navigators. Apparently one of Jerry’s well-known sayings around the office was “Kill your snakes one at a time” (that is, focus on one problem at a time). Jerry was mild-mannered, yet he took courageous, even bold actions. In my dad’s estimation, his savvy decisions saved the organization millions of dollars, a figure that continues to grow even today.
Maybe one of the reasons Jerry has been so influential is that he was a regular guy who called people to experience something not so regular. When I read The Gospel for Real Life, I began to really understand some deep spiritual symbols I hadn’t quite grasped before. I still remember stopping as I read about the scapegoat, suddenly grasping in new ways that God has banished my sin:
What is the significance of the expression, “as far as the east is from the west”? … Practically, it expresses an infinite distance…Just as the [scape]goat symbolically carried away the sins of the Israelites from the presence of God and their presence, so Christ by His death carried away our sins” (p. 59).
I then underlined, “Do we believe the testimony of Scripture, or do we believe our guilty feelings?” (p. 60) Now that I understood the ancient picture of the scapegoat, would I truly and deeply believe the mess of my sin is gone?
I work in an office, just like Jerry, and I am not a flashy, charismatic person. But connection with Jesus and His gospel is for people like me, and God can use me in my real life. Jerry illustrates through his life what he communicates in his writing: I am not limited to just holding down a job and even doing well at it. Even as an office worker I can, by God’s grace, have a vibrant spiritual life that overflows into the world.