“Who Do You Trust?” was a TV quiz show hosted by Johnny Carson in his pre-Tonight Show days. The contestants were married couples; the basic play was to reveal the category for a question, and the husband would then either answer the question or “trust” his wife to give the right answer. I know, I know — but this was the 1950s.
Almost from the moment I climbed out of bed this morning, it seemed like the theme of the day was going to be around trust.
I read something yesterday that resonated so strongly with me that I added it to my evening prayer. Fr. Nathan Castle, in his book Afterlife, Interrupted [2018: Fluid Creations, Inc.], speaks about turning our consciousness over to God when we sleep, “maybe for safekeeping, or so that God can accomplish something in us that’s more easily done in the night.” When I knelt for my evening prayers last night and prayed in this way, it occurred to me what a wonderful expression of trust it involved. After all, we relinquish control of our consciousness when we sleep; how much better to relinquish it to God, Who created it in the first place, than to let it wander free in the night!
So I turned my consciousness over to God, along with my usual prayer for a safe, sound, and restorative sleep under the watch of my guardian angel to prepare me for a new day of service to Him.
This morning, I woke up thinking about trust, and the day’s readings and morning prayer took me deeper and deeper into considering what it really means.
On this Tuesday of the third week of Advent, my morning prayer began with Ps. 127, which warns us that all the great work we do is nothing unless we are partnered with the Lord: In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat: when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. Readings from the Old Testament books of Isaiah and Jeremiah remind us of God’s promise of a Savior for His sinful people; and then we heard Matthew’s gospel story of how, when Joseph was prepared to “quietly divorce” Mary because of her thus far unexplained pregnancy, an angel came to him in his sleep and told him what was going on. Just as Mary, some time earlier, had completely trusted God in His astounding revelation and call, Joseph, when he awoke, simply “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him….”
If Joseph had not trusted God’s call and revelation to him, the custom of the time would have required that Mary, with her unborn Child, be stoned to death for her presumed adultery.
Can we aspire to the kind of trust that Mary displayed when she responded to the angel’s announcement, to the kind of trust that Joseph lived out when the angel came to him in a dream? I think the question is even bigger, because I think that such trust is exactly what we are called to.
But like most things I am called to in my spiritual life, in my relationship with God, my response is usually flawed.
Of course I trust God. But most of us would probably admit that even while we are telling Him we trust Him, right under the surface of our prayer we are imposing conditions on our trust.
We trust in God, but we still want to do things our way and get the outcomes we want.
We trust in God, but we caution Him not to give us anything too tough, because we don’t want to suffer.
We trust in God, provided He doesn’t let anything bad happen to us or those we love.
We trust in God, but we ask Him for direct signs that we are on the right track.
We trust in God, but we don’t want to give up on our things and our attachments.
Like that old TV show, we want the option to formulate our own answer, rather than trusting God to provide us with the answers.
How, then, do we offer ourselves to God in complete trust? How do we stop setting conditions on our trust in Him? At first, I thought that this required a tremendous act of courage — possibly courage beyond what our human weakness and the pride that accompanies it would support.
And then I realized that instead, what this kind of trust requires is deep humility — the kind of humility that’s defined as understanding exactly who we are in terms of Who God has revealed Himself to be.
This kind of humility knows God as the almighty, compassionate, loving, and merciful Maker of all things and as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of His people.
This kind of humility knows ourselves as beloved children of that God, as sinful, flawed, and imperfect as we are in our human nature.
This kind of humility recognizes that God is always present to fill in the gaps our sinful nature leaves open. Our response to adversity would be as flawed as we ourselves are, without God to lead us.
This kind of humility looks to God to bring good out of the adversity and harm the world can cause us. It sees that God does not send adversity and harm to test us, but rather is always with us and always ready to hold us up and carry us through those times of difficulty.
This kind of humility leads us to trust God completely and implicitly, because the only hope we have of dealing with all we encounter is in leaning on Him.
When I turn to God in prayer — hopefully, often throughout my day — and tell Him that I trust Him, I like to think that that’s all He chooses to hear. I like to think that He chooses to ignore the conditions I try to put on my trust, that he uses my attempts to rely on myself as a way of teaching me a better way. In other words, God responds to my imperfect prayer of trust with perfect love, compassion, and mercy.
Who do you trust?
Father, fill my heart with the kind of trust I need. Fill it so that there is no room for doubt, nor any room for my own feeble attempts to control my outcomes in life, but only room for Your love. Let me learn from Your grace that my actions and my response to life will be right when they reflect Your goodness and mercy and love. Amen.
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