I've been thinking a lot lately about how easy it is for me to slip into reliance upon my own faculties, and even those of my co-workers & friends, while forgetting God. For me this is one of the greatest occupational hazards of trying to work for good in the world. When we dedicate ourselves to working for justice, believing that another and better world is possible now, we have to be willing to give our best and challenge ourselves to continually keep growing and refining our efforts. But this, I am finding, is a very slippery slope that often leads us quickly from the best of places (loving surrender to God and God's work in the world) to the worst (trying to be God). Education, competency, effort, experience, even life-long commitment to something, can never take the place of trust in the goodness of God and our reliance (in trust) upon God's love revealed in Christ and poured out through the Holy Spirit. I was reminded of this powerfully this morning while reading this selection from Brennan Manning's book "Ruthless Trust:"
"This book started writing itself with a remark from my spiritual director. 'Brennan, you don't need any more insights into the faith,' he observed. 'You've got enough insights to last you three hundred years. The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received.'
That sounded simple enough. But his remark sparked a searing reexamination of my life, my ministry, and the authenticity of my relationship with God-a reexamination that spanned the next two years. The challenge to actually trust God forced me to deconstruct what I had spent my life constructing, to stop clutching what I was so afraid of losing, to question my personal investment in every word I had ever written or spoken about Jesus Christ and fearlessly to ask myself if I trusted him.
.....Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that border on the heroic. When the shadow of Jesus' cross falls across our lives in the form of failure, rejection, abandoment, betrayal, unemployment, loneliness, depression, the loss of a loves one; when we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own pain; when the world around us seems a hostile, menancing place-at those times we may cry out in anguish, 'How could a loving God permit this to happen?' At such moments the seeds of distrust are sown. It requires heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us.
The most brilliant student I ever taught in seminary was a young man named Augustus Gordon. He now lives as a hermit six months each year in a solitary cabin deep in the Smoky Mountains above Liberty, Tennessee. The remaining half-year he travels the country preaching the gospel on behalf of Food for the Poor, a missionary outreach feeding the hungry and homeless in Haiti, Jamaica, and other Caribbean islands.
On a recent visit I aksed him, 'Gus, could you define the Christian life in a single sentence?' He didn't even blink before responding. 'Brennan,' he said, 'I can define it in a single word: trust.'