If I could describe this summer by using two words, I would attribute to it both love and trust. At first glance, these words may come across as rudimentary or even as if I were trying to gloss over something less-than-pleasant. However, truth the must be told is that with love there is pain, and with trust there is risk. Often in my life I have been know to dwell on the pain and rejection that can come with love, and the anxiety in the fear that my trust will be all for nought. Yet, to love another human being is to place your heart at a place of vulnerability for a loved one. To trust someone is to place your vulnerability in someone’s hands.
I have learned a lot in the last few months about loving another person. With love comes expectation. You may hope that your loved one will never hurt you. The hope is that love equals everything that you want for yourself in a relationship. However, shortly after my wife and I became engaged, I learned how expectation can hurt the vulnerable places that your loved one places before you. My pastor advised us of the importance of loving each other without such expectations when my wife and I started dating. She becomes unpleasant when she expects me to hurt her as someone once hurt her in a past situation. Then, I become unforgiving because I can expect her to avoid conflict with me. In truth, love is trusting that your loved one will love you even for worse–not just for better. I find that my marriage to my wife consists of trusting her with the parts of me that I don’t like along with offering the parts of me that are pleasant. As a result, I have realized a deep, intimate love, toward another human being that I never had known before I met Denise. I fall in love with her again and again–especially when our unpleasant realities come out of us. Perhaps our love is on its way to becoming a reflection, albeit imperfectly, to the love that God has for humanity.
God requires of me to trust Him through intimacy toward Him as well. When I give God my worst and my best, I trust Him to all of the fear and mistrust along with my feelings of anxiety and self loathing when life doesn’t meet my expectations. Just as my marriage to my wife consists of trusting her with the parts of me that I don’t like, my relationship with God extends all parts of myself even when I do not like the reality of my failures.
For the last several years, I have had many moments where God has pulled me aside to convict me of my rudimentary level of trust in Him. I recall telling my friend Emily, who is now married to my friend Danilo, soon after they started dating, that I did not trust God enough. Something was brewing in me then that is only culminating after six years of long and earnest prayer, devotion, and searching. In a journal entry that I wrote in September of 2013, I was reflecting on God’s wish to be my primary source of security. I recall the moment of conviction very well. As I rode my bike up to the river, I had known that God had been eager to communicate something to me. And, somehow a vista over the Missouri River would be the place where God would take the opportunity to do this. In my journal, I wrote the words:
“George MacDonald, in ‘Creation in Christ,’ equivalates lack of forgiveness or refusal to forgive, with ‘spiritual murder,’ through heart-centered-hatred.”
I also had written, “Unforgiveness is a form of hatred,” followed by a quote from Carlo Carretto:
“We must face and go among the cause of our evils, not by defending ourselves, but by suffering in silence as Jesus did.”
Carretto is probably urging his reader to confront the patterns in our lives which lead us to fear the ugly and unholy parts of our existence. Furthermore, our silent suffering is likely a call to solidarity with our loved ones through better or worse, rather than holding in a grudge or keeping all protest of evil bottled up. Unforgiveness is the opposite of love because it is a form of hatred. Jesus expressed his anguish through his solidarity with people in sin and in distress. Denying himself pride in his deity, he took his obedience to the Father to the point of the cross.
As such, I was convicted with what I already knew–that is, was my old, well-paying job, was a way of my refusal to enter into an intimacy with God. At that moment, I knew that dependence on Him meant turning over even my fear and anxiety, and even the parts of me that I dislike. However, was I taking pride in myself through a job that gave me material wealth, and was it creating a condition, or my own terms, by which I expected God to call me to his service.
Only two months after God spoke to me on a bike ride, I met Denise. Less than two years later, she became my wife. God has used her to reveal the pattern of unforgiveness that had been eating away at my faith in God and others. As such, my impaired capacity to love and trust God was exposed in the early months of our relationship.
Nearly two years have passed since I wrote that journal entry by the Missouri River. The step that I made this summer was of faith in the context of intimacy with God and with my wife. I am taking the step of faith that God has been urging to me for years to come. Perhaps God’s purpose was to give me a helper to support me as I take this step. As recently as yesterday, I found that I need her to compensate when my mood impaired my reasoning. In struggle with anguish and feeling tempted to play the forgotten victim in the reality of my medical condition, it is with great trust in God that I step onto the path of new uncertainty. Yet, with great faith that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it, that He will do immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine (God already has by leading me to my bride) and calling me to a place of not anxiety or fear, but of constant prayer and seeking of God’s goodness, that my request will be known, and that God will respond in supplying me peace as I trust that in His love. He will never leave or forsake us.
May it be so. Amen.
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:5-13, ESV