Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3-5-6)
Many years ago, my two older children came in to tell us that our youngest daughter was stuck in a tree. I walked out assuming that she would be in the front yard six or feet up in a tree made for climbing.
You can imagine my shock, horror, and dismay to find her 20 feet up in a pine tree in our back yard. She had discovered that climbing up is fairly easy to do. Getting back down when you can’t see is quite another.
She was scared, but I doubt her fear was anything close to mine. I couldn’t climb to get her because the tree would not have supported my weight that far up. All I could see was her tumbling out of that tree to the ground. The only thing we could do is to talk her out of the tree and guide her feet from limb to limb until she was safe.
Her posistion made me think of my own times when I got stuck climbing up something. Its easy to go up because you are only concentrating on what is in front of you. Then when you realize how high you are, getting down is something else all together.
When I was very smalI, I would climb this very tall ladder my father had. In retrospect, it was probably a five foot ladder. But it seemed high to me. I would climb up and then have trouble getting down. One of my parents would come behind me and say jump. I would jump into his arms from that dizzying three or four feet up.
But years later I got stuck on the roof of a neighbor’s house. Never mind how, we’ll save that for another day. And no matter how much my family urged me to jump to them so they could catch me, I couldn’t do it.
It wasn’t that they lost their ability or strength to catch me. The issue was one of trust. Not that they had become any less trustworthy. The issues were mine. I had become old enough to play the “what if” game. what if they miss? What if I jump too far? What if they don’t catch me? I began to contemplate the consequences. All of those questions had caused me to develop a layer of an inability to trust.
But if you had asked me the day before if I trusted my parents, I would have answered, “Of course. They are my parents. They’ve always meant good for me, never let me down.” And I would have been sincere about it. But when I actually had to trust, all those words were merely lip service.
Recentley our church, as did many United Methodist churches, read in worship together the Wesley Covenant. This covenant is one many UM churches use to begin the year. Its a way to make a covenant with the Lord to begin the year. It goes like this:
It’s a beautiful covenant. But I caught myself yesterday asking if I really meant it, or was I just giving lip service? At the heart of the covenant is the issue of trust. Do I trust God so much that I am willing to totally abandon my life to Him? It’s easy to say that in a safe church sanctuary. But can I say it at the hospital if one of my children is sick or injured? Can I say it if there arise enemies to my ministry and things don’t go well? Can I say this when disappointments in life arise, as they surely will? It’s one thing to say I completley trust God when I am on the ground. Can I do it when life puts me 25 feet up in the pine tree?
Like with my being on the roof, if I look deep in my heart I discover the problems of trust are not in the ability, or in the voice, of my Heavenly Father. They come from within me. After all, God has always been faithful. Always caught me. His voice has always guided me even when He asked me to step where I cannot see.
Living out this covenant is a bit like how my daughter got out of that tree. First she had to trust me. Secondly she had to do what I told her to do even if she couldn’t see it or it didn’t make sense. And bit by bit, step by step she made it safely into our arms.
This year I want this covenant to be more than lip service. I want to live my life with this type of abandonment. I want to learn to listen better, step where He asks and land safely in his arms. Will you be willing this year to pray this pray and learn to trust deeper?
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><