by Linda Ryan
The word I’ve been contemplating this week is the word “trust.” It started with a theological reflection at my Education for Ministry (EfM) group this past weekend. Our theological reflection was based on a photograph of a bright blue sky, and in the foreground was a large rock, a small child, and a father. The child was jumping off the rock, arms outstretched, knowing that his daddy would catch him. It was a perfect example of the trust a child has for his or her parents. It was a good image, and one that people can relate to and certainly understand on a number of levels.
One thing we discovered in our discussion was that trust is not always easily come by. People, institutions, even churches, are places where trust is expected. Often, however, maybe because our expectations are too high, or maybe because of a flaw in ourselves, or maybe it’s just the way things are, but often the very things that we are supposed to trust turn out to be otherwise. Often , depending on who you are, trust is strained or lost altogether because trust has been broken, sometimes violently.
Many of us have had family issues that have caused us to lose trust, even if the evidence seems to point the other way. I understand my LGBT brothers and sisters say they feel left out or somehow not completely accepted, or who are afraid to be themselves because of fear of rejection. Not just from families, but from the very places they should feel safe and secure, like schools and churches and jobs. I understand my Native American brothers and sisters feeling far from trusting in a government of European immigrants who forced treaties on them and then summarily broke those treaties without compunction. I understand my disabled brothers and sisters who look for help only to find physical and metaphorical steps instead of ramps.
We’re taught that trust is something that we should always have, especially in God. God is always with us. God always loves us. God is always in charge. I have a problem with some of that. I don’t trust God to get me out of scrapes that I get myself into. I think God gave me brains to ask for help from God or from other people, or to just figure it out on how to get myself out of the situation I got myself into. Granted, it’s easier when you have support; I know it has been for me, but on the whole, I don’t see God as the kind of puppet master who set me up with a test to prove my faith or my confidence or even my trust in God. I can’t feel that way, because I have to have something to trust, someone to trust, and if I can’t trust God, who can I trust?
It’s a shame we can’t all go back to being like the little child jumping into his father’s arms. We can’t go back to being 4 or 5 again, trusting that everything in life is beautiful, good, and a source of curiosity to see how it works. Unfortunately those days are gone for us, and we will never totally get them back. We can live them vicariously through children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but we still see what the child doesn’t. We see ahead and we worry as we put the children to sleep, with prayers that they will wake in the morning and be safe and secure wherever they go.
Trust is important. It takes discernment to know whom and when we can trust. Jesus always trusted God as his Father, even on the cross. The feeling of having God withdraw from him was probably the most horrible and hurtful feeling Jesus had ever had, yet it made him to be more like us, more human that us humans, so that he might truly understand and we could see this in and through him.
This is a time when trust is really in the balance. We can’t trust institutions that should be looking after the common welfare but who are more interested in making money for themselves and others like them. The poor can just work harder and longer hours, in their minds. I have heard members of government say that we shouldn’t help the poor because they are lazy, just looking for handouts, or who have preexisting illnesses or disabilities that will cost too much. Even our veterans, people who went into harm’s way to keep us safe and who often came home damaged in body, mind, and spirit, can’t trust that their country will take care of them despite their sacrifice. I hear the same things from ordinary people in the street, people who are more concerned with themselves and their own comfort and safety than that of the homeless, the damaged, or the poor.
It’s time to learn to trust someone or something. There are so many things around we can’t trust and shouldn’t trust, but we also need to find strong rocks to hold onto, sacred places that give us peace and tranquility so that we can sort out the mess is in our lives and the issues of trust that we have.
Jesus told us that we should have faith like a little child. We have to hold onto that, but we also have to hold on to the fact that God expects us to help ourselves and help each other to trust and to work for the kingdom of God which is the common good for all humanity and for all the earth. We have to learn to trust ourselves, our fellow human beings, and most of all God. It’s what really matters in this time when trust seems to be about the last item on the menu and in very, very small print.
Image: from Wikimedia Commons