Trust: Part 2

The issue of trust in God has been a huge factor in my faith formation and in my work as an ordained minister.

When I was sixteen, the first Gulf War began.  I had a good friend in high school who had been born in the U.S. to a Pakistani family.  Her entire family was Muslim.  She wore a head scarf every day.  No one ever said anything to her about it until that war began, when random people at the school began yelling “Terrorist!” at her.  She and her family were here in the U.S. to make a better life for themselves, not to participate in terrorist plots.  They renounced all radical forms of their religion, just as Christians have (or should have) renounced the Crusades and other forms of fundamentalist violence.  Walking through the halls of our high school was scary at times (I wondered if a mob would try to attack her), but I walked with her and sat beside her on the bus.  That was the first time I truly understood the mob mentality, as well as the helplessness of one person in the light of world events.  I had to make the decision to trust in God; otherwise, I would have been swallowed up in fear.

When I was twenty-six, with one year of ordination under my belt, we went through 9/11.  Following that, two wars, two recessions, and a decade of hostility almost everywhere.  Sometimes I pout when I pray, asking God why I was led to this time and place.  Why couldn’t I have been a minister back in the 1950s when everything was hunky-dory for average Presbyterians?  (I would have had to be a man, but pouting and feeling sorry for yourself isn’t always logical.)  Sometimes I don’t feel up to the task of ministering to people who are very afraid and depressed.  In fact, sometimes I feel as if I am in an alternate universe.  My peers and I have an abundance of cheap material goods, so much more than our parents or grandparents had in their mid-thirties, and yet we seem much more anxious than they were.  Our creature comforts are not addressing the deep anxieties we have.  I’ll have to admit, it’s hard to address this issue in 15-minute sermons or 2-minute prayers.

So I’ve had to relinquish a lot of worry in the last ten years.  I’ve been pushed to a decision point:  take the foggy-looking door out of a sense of trust, or take the clear-cut door of cynicism and fear.

Taking the trust door isn’t easy.  I can’t see anything past the door frame itself.  On top of that, I know that once I cross the threshold, much will be demanded of me.  If I’m going to live a life of trust, and preach trust to other people, I will need to work hard.  As I mentioned in my last post, I don’t like the “ain’t it awful” game, but it sure is easy to play.  If I’m going to trust, I cannot allow prejudice, hatred, fear, ignorance, or laziness into my sphere.  If I’m going to trust, I will need to train myself to see past all the mess people have created, to see the world as God sees it.

A few years after college graduation, a friend called me in tears.  Turns out he had trusted that his expensive college degree would rocket him right up to the top of the working world.  Yet, he found himself at the bottom, a regular working stiff.  He vented for a while, and then we talked about ways we could find reshape the story.  Now my friend is still in the business world, and I’m in my church world, but we have changed where we look for guidance and trust.  I keep that conversation in mind as I go forward, seeking to deepen a radical trust in the One who is faithful and true.

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