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[springlist] Cultivating Trust

June 19, 2006 Leave a comment

In the last six days, my life has transformed in ways I have yet to fully
grasp. I am grateful to a world of people who’ve played various roles in
this event. First and foremost, Izaak’s gift and act of personal sacrifice
goes beyond my ability to fully express adequate appreciation. All I can say
is “Thank you for laying down your life for mine.”

As always, my secret weapon in life is my wife Kelly. She stays in the
background, taking care of me and host of other issues that allow me to
simply be. She is a gift I never deserved but received and I am thankful.
Then I think of the family and friends who surrounded Izaak and myself with
various forms of support from Jeremy’s popular and continuous kidneyblogging to the ongoing presence of my parents, Kelly’s parents and Izaak’s parents.
We were touched by so many friends it would be difficult to single some out
for fear I might forget others, but I hold the steady encouragement of
friends in my heart as a gift from heaven.

I could continue by mentioning the thousands of people who have been praying
for days, weeks, months and even years. The medical staff who tirelessly
worked to make sure both of us received the care we needed for complete
recovery. And there are countless other people who contributed in ways we
will never fully realize. I know you’re there and I am thankful.

In one sense, it seems as though a major landmark has passed. And often
during a crisis our need to reach for God and others intensifies. Thus last
week I wrote a few thoughts on learning to rest in the arms of everlasting
love. Sometimes I fear that after the event passes we might be tempted to
return to our culture’s abiding value of self-reliance. After the intensity
of the crisis diminishes, we can return to “normal lives.”

But in another sense, crisis simply reveals the illusion of self-reliance.
We are deeply dependent creatures and trust is an essential part of a truly
human community. We live in a world that often strains our capacity to
trust. We live in a world of bank fraud and corporate corruption, political
sloganeering and shameless marketing manipulation. We live in a world of
broken vows and broken hearts.

How is possible for trust to ever grow and flourish when we are continually
confronted with so many reasons to trust in ourselves but be cautious with
others. I cannot speak for others, but for myself trust in people can only
grow from trust in God. But one might say “How can I trust God when I prayed
for help and he never responded?” I might suppose more agnostics and
atheists arise from a sense of personal disappointment in God than from
reasoned argument.

My ability to trust God does not grow from a generic sense of the divine but
from a story that echoes through history. In Jesus, I behold a life of
absolute trust in the goodness of the Father. Jesus enters time as “God with
us.” This unique person who is both man and God reveals one God who is three
persons: a communion of love. Acting on behalf of the Father and by the
power of the Spirit, Jesus comes to address the deep chaos that tears
through creation replacing evil with good.

Jesus comes to address this evil by offering God’s response to this evil.
His response is to bear the chaos, the brokenness, and the death of this
disturbance within himself. When I look at his story from the outside, I see
a strange story of a young prophet who woefully crosses the wrong people and
ends up dying. His story appears to give no reason for trust in God or
people. In fact, his story appears to reinforce the reason why we cannot
ever really trust another.

And yet the gospel writers tell a fuller, more complete story. Yes, they
admit the shameful death and apparent defeat. But then they bear witness to
another reality that changes everything: resurrection. In the resurrection
of Jesus, their faith is reborn and their world is recreated. What appears
to be tragedy turns out to be comedy of the highest order. Good truly
prevails. The Father ultimately vindicates the Son and the Son’s message of
reconciliation.

So when someone is convinced that God abandoned him or her at the critical
moment in life, I can only look to Jesus who reveals that what appears to be
abandonment today may in fact turn out to be vindication tomorrow. We see
the amazing story of vindication repeated again and again throughout history
in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Paul dies an apparent failure in his
mission to the Gentiles and yet his message of grace continues to echo.
Countless early Christians died at the hands of pagans and heretics as they
stood for the truth revealed in Jesus and yet that truth did not die and
continues to reverberate around the world.

Vindication cannot be understood in the moment but only in light of history.
I may not see vindication today or tomorrow but I can trust a God who is
faithful and will vindicate me through His love in Jesus Christ. By
realizing that God is truly faithful, I can trust him with my life and rest
that I do exist for a purpose, my life is not a meaningless occurrence and
that in the end He will vindicate me in His love.

This trust allows me to rest when the daily barrage of disappointments
challenge that trust. It allows me to move beyond a momentary trust in the
midst of disaster to an abiding trust through both the good and the bad. It
allows me to rest in peace whether sitting at a dialysis machine or enjoying
the gift of a new transplant. And from this trust in the absolute
faithfulness of God, I can begin trust other people.

Reciprocal love is an illusion without trust. It is simply a contract. But
trust moves relationship beyond a social contract to a communion of love. By
cultivating trust in other people, I can enjoy the fruit of an eternal
loving community even now. Trust is a gift for living moment by moment in a
world of broken people. It is a gift of God that gives us hope to reach
toward to future restoration when everything I see questions that hope.

So how do I cultivate trust in other people? It is not a technique or a
formula that our science obsessed culture always looks to discover. It is
not some secret wisdom that has been hidden and only the best–selling
motivational writers have unveiled. Trust is organic more like gardening. It
is something cultivated day in and day out.

When I plant a garden, I face a host of small responsibilities to keep the
plants healthy and productive. I plant seed, water the ground, remove weeds
and allow the wonder of the sun to awaken life. There is no magic technique
that makes gardening more enriching. In fact, as many people can attest, the
tomatoes from a simple home garden consistently taste better than tomatoes
produced with the very latest technological advances.

Cultivating a garden means that there will be disappointment. Some plants
will simply not produce as I had hoped. Other times external conditions like
too much blistering sun or too much flooding rain diminish or even destroy a
harvest. And yet, gardening also surprises us with delight of fresh
vegetables that often overshadows store-bought counterparts.

Cultivating trust in the people around me requires small daily attentions.
There are times of weeding, times of planting, times of watering, times of
waiting, time of harvest. All these small attentions enrich our lives in
ways that money, entertainment, and more stuff simply cannot do. Of course,
we will experience disappointment. In fact, profound disappointments that
can even cause us to despair of life. And yet there are also surprises of
delight that simply cannot compare to any artificial technological
reproduction.

As we rest in the ultimate faithfulness of God, we are free to risk a life
of trust in other people. And this risk is very real, yet the reward in one
sense makes us human.

As I recover and relearn life as a kidney transplant recipient, I realize my
essential priorities are still the same. I realize I need people and I need
God’s unfathomable grace. So I return to the little details, the little
things, the little dailies of cultivating trust and building relationships
with friends and strangers that will transform a barren plain into a
fruitful paradise.

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