Trust is a pretty basic concept in life. When I sit down at a restaurant, the wait staff comes to serve me and trusts that I will pay them for their services and my meal. When I go to the doctor, I trust that they are experts in health care and I am not. Faith is deeply connected to trust. As if the two are links in a chain. In recent months, faith and trust have become nebulous ideas instead of practices in my own spiritual walk with God.
I was taught to be self-reliant, self-assured, and self-motivated by my family and society, and perhaps that lesson settled deeper than is healthy for my spiritually. It overshadows my faith and trust in God. I find myself believing that my entire life, the lives of my parishioners, and the fate of the church is in my hands and that pressure suffocates me. I don’t mean to leave God out of the equation of my life or my ministry, in fact I am hustling for that very God: to please God, and maybe if I’m honest, to impress God enough to love me.
I preached around 45 sermons in the last year and all of them proclaimed a God who loves boundless those whom God created. No matter what. I would venture to guess that all 45 sermons also included the words ‘grace’, ‘mercy’ and ‘power’ somewhere in the twenty-minute homily. How do I know this? Because that is basically the core of my beliefs.
My actions, however, are proclaiming something more akin to, “God helps those, who help themselves.” Spoiler alert: This isn’t biblical. This is a quote from Benjamin Franklin, who was a deist and not a Christian (the exact origin is disputed but Franklin popularized the phrase). It is easy to fall into a pattern of not trusting God, even when it comes to the building of the Kingdom of God.
I want to be a strong, confident, independent, and motivated member of society. And I can be, but I don’t want it to be at the expense of allowing God to reign in my life and over my actions. In the past year, God has really and truly shaken up my life in exciting and terrifying ways. God has called me to try new things, be the solo pastor of a congregation, claim my story (more on that in the coming months), write, start a podcast (get excited!) and continue raising a beautiful baby/ toddler.
Some of these new challenges I graciously accepted at God’s call, and others, let’s just say, I took some convincing. Once accepted, I threw myself into these endeavors and vulnerable spaces, but I did so without trusting God to lead me, not entirely. As though I said, “You got it, God! Now stand back, watch what I can do!” Most of this reaction came from a place of excitement and fervor for ministry, but some I admit was pride. I wanted to succeed on my own, and I wanted to make God proud of me, proud to call me God’s beloved.
I keep finding myself contemplating the story of Peter walking on water in Matthew 14, and Peter’s lack of faith, or trust if you will. The disciples are floating along at sea at night minding their own business, when Jesus approaches using the water as a bridge. Peter gets freaked out and Jesus says, “Hey, come out and join me.” Peter hops out of the boat and fricking walks on water until he panics and begins to sink (Reeves-Pendergrass paraphrase).
Jesus walks out to meet the disciples. Jesus does most of the scary and hard part for them. He doesn’t ask Peter to walk all the way to shore, just to walk out and meet him. Jesus wants Peter to stand beside him, not to stand alone. He only makes it a few steps before he stops believing in the miracle, the miracle he is witnessing, the miracle still occurring. Jesus didn’t take one step away from Peter, but Peter did not trust Jesus to follow through on his request. Sound familiar?
It does to me as well. God often asks us to get out of the boat and walk toward our Savior. Sometimes we don’t have the courage to even get out of the boat. Other times we take a few steps and look down at all of the potential problems and start to fall to the bottom of the sea. Maybe we hop out and walk, only to start looking to Jesus for guidance and assurance. We think we have to walk across the sea by our own strength, intellect, or fortitude, and when we get tired, we panic for fear we might sink. We don’t trust that when God calls us to act, God is going to act right there beside us, with us, in spite of us. We can trust that God isn’t going anywhere, and the power of the Holy Spirit still burns inside our hearts. Let’s walk.