So often I have heard these words. So many tears, so many hearts broken when trust and love become sundered from one another.
Why is there such anguish? Why is there such pain?
Because this is impossible. Because people cannot do what cannot be done. We cannot love what we do not trust. We cannot trust what we do not love.
When we try, we cram the heart and soul into a contorted dimension, a false condition, a form of self-denial, that does not fit and never can. Like trying to wend our way through the stairways of an Escher Drawing, we pass through some mobius portal of feelings that leave us turned inside out, vulnerable, and exposed.
When we first begin to fall in love… that’s SO scary.
Why? Why is that so fearful?
Because we risk. We risk such anguish, such disappointment.
What if we finally acknowledge that we have “fallen in love”, that our hearts are now in the hands of another… and they do not feel the same way?
Who will be the first to say, “I love you?”
Who can’t recall the incredible gush of relief when we find the beloved DOES love us back?
That is a tremendous moment in life.
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But then… what about the NEXT layer of trust? The NEXT risk taken? Not just to risk trust to the “unknown”… but to trust in the “committed unknown”?
It is one thing to trust to love when there is not yet a commitment, but there is another whole layer, a whole dimension, of trusting to love when there is commitment, a covenant to faithfulness, that involves what we cannot see.
Here is where many relationships stumble… “I just worry all the time, Dr. Monk. What is he/she doing when I’m not there? Sometimes I call and there is no answer.” or “He/she calls or texts me 20 times a day, wondering where I am, who I am with, what I am doing… It’s driving me crazy!”
There is no “trust” here. There is the ongoing need for “control” here. There is only the “safety of being in charge” or of “ownership” here… Not “love”.
How do we “trust” to what we cannot “see” or “control”? How do we grow to love that much?
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And then… there’s the last layer… the final layer that sunders us from all that “makes sense”, all that is “rational”, all that is “clearly apparent”.
How do we “trust” in the face of apparent and obvious “betrayal”?
It is one thing to trust to the unknown without commitment. It is another thing to trust to the unknown WITH commitment. But it’s a clearly different thing indeed to CHOOSE to trust, in the face of an apparent KNOWN of untruth, infidelity, in a covenant relationship of commitment.
To be frank, most people consider this simply impossible. So many, particularly Christians, will say they “forgive”, but cannot “forget” and therefore cannot ever restore “trust”.
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So… “What’s going on here today, Little Monk?” you may ask. “Have we dropped through some warp from The Postmodern Mystic to an episode of Dr. Phil?”
This post follows up from the Sizzling Bacon, and addresses the question… “How?” A few weeks ago I was intrigued by “A Challenge”, written by Don Merritt, wherein a listener came up to him after he had delivered a truth-filled sermon and asked, “Why don’t we believe you?” This addresses that question as well. Last, but not least, this post addresses a discussion I had with Susan Irene Fox one evening (about Don’s question), where I proposed that the answer was that “we refuse to surrender control… we are selfish”, and she disagreed, believing that, “people are simply fearful, they’re afraid.” (OK, so now you know, Susan is a kinder, more charitable, person than I…)
That conversation, those questions, kept mulling in my brain as I could sense truth in all of that, but could not put my finger on it…
Then, along with “Can You Hear the Bacon Sizzle?“, Jesus highlighted the piece I was missing… the issue is “Trust”.
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Few of us have trouble relating to love, trust, romance, in the terms that open this post. But now, for Christians, the transition to our relationship of intimacy with God can be a bit more tricky. But think about it, Jesus has “wedded” us, we are at a Marriage Feast, we are His Bride (NOT just “corporately” as part of some anonymous “herd” or “flock”… but individually as well). To attain eternal life is to KNOW the Father, and the Son, with the intimacy of a spouse…
What is the “limit”… the “constraining factor”… the “conditional boundary” of our “Intimacy” with God?
Our decision to limit our Trust of Him.
“But I DON’T ‘limit my trust’ of Him!” one would protest! “I trust Him UTTERLY!”
I can say that. I can truthfully say I have done so always. BUT, at the same time, I have NOT.
I can only “trust” to the extent that I see the challenge to trust, acknowledge that, and make a conscious choice to do so. (And most of the time, reacting to situations moment-by-moment as I do, no such thing happens).
So let’s take our romantic illustration above, and apply it to our intimacy with God for a moment…
Trust to the Unknown without Commitment: “Who will be first to say ‘I love you’?” The risk of that, the daring to the unknown of that. Consider…
18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. [Matthew 4]
I propose that we see “trust to the unknown yet uncommitted” here. Bold trust. Daring trust. Yet, all unknown as yet. So much of relationship to be discovered, uncovered, committed to.
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Time goes on, commitment grows (both directions in relationship), fealty is exchanged. There is now the “expectation” of fidelity. We see that in human romance. But how do we remain assured and at peace with what we CANNOT see, what we DO NOT understand? We see the Gospel of John highlight such a moment when Jesus speaks of eating His flesh, and so many disciples fall away. Their orthodoxy… their religion… all those rules about blood, and flesh, and what is holy and unclean… They can no longer trust Jesus. Jesus is speaking of unclean things, of abomination, of cannibalism. They can no longer walk with Him. He has ventured into the unknown, the untrustworthy. And yet… yet there are the few, there is Peter in their midst…
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” [John 6]
They trust in the midst of the unknown. They CHOOSE to trust, they DECIDE to trust. They could have walked away, but they did not. They simply loved Jesus too much for that. They loved Him beyond their ability to understand or know… this is Trust.
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But… But… What about the third case? What about “betrayal”? Jesus never “betrayed” them, did He? Well, no. He did not. He never did, He kept His word(s) always… BUT… it certainly did not SEEM that way to them, did it? The “facts” of the matter, the “evidence”, the “appearance”… certainly lined up a convincing case that He had abandoned them, leaving them to their fate at the hands of the Pharisees, did it not?
I mean, think this through. Palm Sunday, triumphal entry into Jerusalem… “Hail! Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”
What a high!
Then, to the Temple… driving out the money changers and animal sellers!
Then this week of controversy in Jerusalem. What confusion did they know? Prophecies and rumors of assassination plots against Him. The acclaim of the people. People giving livestock, goods, meeting rooms “because the Master has need” of them. Then… that mysterious Last Supper Passover meal… then the Garden… all His promises… “I will never leave you for forsake you… I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be… I lay down My life, no one takes it from Me…”
Confusingly, He tells them outright that He is going to die, but that because of that they will live. That they are His, in His hand, and they need not fear. That they will be scattered, but… He challenges them… TRUST Him!
And then… He dies!
This.. this… Messiah. This Son of God. This Resurrector of the Dead. This Healer of the Sick… Caster out of demons… Feeder of the Thousands!!! Dead! And they… were… left… alone! And scared. (Now, lest we cover this over with a “gentle Sunday-School haze” of… “well, yeah… they were alone, but, after all, they KNEW better… they KNEW He’d be back… and there was nothing to be anxious about…”)
19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” [John 20]
These people were clustered together behind locked doors, locked in by fear. John speaks of fear of the Sanhedrin, but can we even imagine the other fears that flowed through their hearts in those days? A bit further in that passage, John tells us that they came to believe only when He showed them the wounds in His hands and feet!
They knew doubt. They doubted the reports of the women from the tomb. They doubted their own eyes until they saw His wounds. Thomas doubted even THEIR report, until he plunged his own digits into Christ’s side.
So… if even THEY doubted, what made them so special to Jesus? What sets them apart, has always set them apart, as disciples then Apostles? What are we, here and now, to see and realize from their ever-so-human frailty and relationship with Him?
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The Disciples did not know, they did not understand, they did not feel “confident” or “holy” of “faith-y”. None of that! They were scared, and lonely, and felt betrayed. But still, they did not CHOOSE to QUIT!
They remained. They remained in relationship with (as they thought at the time) a Dead Christ… buried and stolen. They CHOSE to TRUST, even in the face of evidence contrary to all they thought possible. They chose to remain, and to continue to love Him, continue to fellowship together, continue to encourage (literally) one another… even if He had lied to them, and had now abandoned them as orphans.
(Please understand… I know full well He HAD not…. that He ALWAYS keeps His word, and NEVER abandons us!) But realize, the Disciples had no EVIDENCE that attested to that as they huddled behind those locked doors, and frankly… you and I go through many days in our lives, where we can seem just as alone as they thought they were.
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And look what happened…
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.“ [John 20]
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Do I “trust” God? Do you? Yes, assuredly we do. And, to the extent that we trust Him, we love Him and experience His love for us.
But true though that is, I can testify to the fact that over time my “trust” has grown! Not because I ever intend to withhold trust from Him, but simply because until challenged by fear, I am not aware that there is greater trust to be had. Does that make sense?
I have discovered that my best “response” to fear… any fear… all fear… big, little, petty, grand… is “Trust”. He is there (here), He is perfect, He is powerful beyond any measure of adequacy, and He is dedicated wholly and totally to my good! I can trust to that, whether I understand it or not.
But it is only when that trust is tested…. only when circumstances seem to belie the safety of my trust… that my love and trust can grow.
It is only when I “seem” to be betrayed, wounded, lied to… when the “evidence around me” would indicate that I CANNOT trust someone… that I can freely CHOOSE to trust them, and the love of God (Father, Son, Spirit) fully flow through me. THAT is freedom! That is grace!
And, by the way, THAT is how God loves US in the first place… regardless of how much we betray Him, wound Him, or lie to Him… or even, to ourselves.
Love = Trust = Love = Him