For me and my family, the last 6 weeks have been a lesson in trust. It included answering a Craig’s List ad for an apartment rental, reserving a truck from U-Haul during their busiest weekend of the year, taking one son to freshman orientation 50 miles away and registering another son for Middle school in a new town. At every step along the way I worried that I was just building what amounted to sandcastles as I waited for the tide to come in and wash our plans away. My mind ran through every negative scenario that would leave us without a truck or a roof or an address necessary for school enrollment.
While my thoughts spiraled downward, every single detail relative to all these moving parts of our life had positive outcomes; truth be told, most of the details were actually more favorable than I could have anticipated. The realtor handling our new apartment offered (without provocation) to reduce both his fee and the monthly rent. The representative at U-Haul made available (with little provocation) the truck for an additional 18 hours. The college orientation was so well-structured that David was moved in about 15 minutes after we arrived on campus. The placement exam and enrollment process for Joshua was flawless. At every turn, we found blessing where I was fearing barriers.
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1 (NIV)
Looking back over what has transpired over the past few months, I am yet again confronted with my own weaknesses: that I trust God too little and fear uncertainty too much. This is all in direct contradiction to what I have experienced over and over again: God continually allows my feet to fall in favorable places – through the lights and through the shadows – and consistently teaches me that I am wasting too much energy worrying about things I ought not contemplate. God is faithful even when I have little faith. God is trustworthy even if I have trouble trusting anyone but myself.
God is good, whether I know it or not. He knows where we are, He knows where we are going and He knows how He will get us there. He knows our worries and concerns and provides comforts and consolations. My trouble is that I trust what I can see. I am a master of the short game and I think that life is a sprint. If it is right in front of me, I can accept it. But God plays a long game and life is a marathon. There are aspects of my life that I know nothing about (things that are miles down the road and years from materializing) but that are perfectly ordered by our omniscient and almighty God.
I thank the Lord for the lessons I have learned in recent days: that I am woefully inadequate to attend to all the details of life, that God has unfathomable blessings in store for those who obey Him and that I need to trust Him more. O Lord, help my little faith.
I was driving by a local pizza place recently and noticed a red, white and blue sign on their window: Restoring the Trust. I don’t know the details, but I think I can guess this restaurant’s story: their reputation has been tarnished in some way and their reliability has been challenged by customers and now they are seeking a second chance. When your quality of work or character is called into question, it is extremely difficult to repair the damage. Our only hope is that people will afford us an opportunity to show we’ve changed after admitting that we’ve made mistakes.
I can assume that we’ve all done something that would warrant our posting a sign in our windows or on our foreheads that reads “Restoring the Trust”. We have all said something hurtful, done something hateful or acted somehow thoughtlessly and caused our co-workers, neighbors or friends to question our integrity. I make this assumption because I have done things and said things that have tarnished my reputation. I’m the kid that was suspended from grade school because I raised my hand in anger to a teacher; I’m the teen who belittled the influence of my parent at a time when I had a platform for appreciating them; I’m the man who has lied and cheated to get my way when I could have simply told the truth and followed the rules. I have had numerous occasions with several relationships where I was seeking to “Restore the Trust”.
I have come to realize, through the pain of seeking easier paths, that the only way to recover one’s integrity and remove the tarnish from one’s reputation is to seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt. Seeking forgiveness is not as simple as putting a sign in the window and expecting a second chance (as if a blanket statement that ‘mistakes were made’ could be enough. It requires admitting your faults, owning your mistakes and confessing your sins…personally and humbly. It then requires a willingness to offer restitution…graciously and generously. It finally requires a commitment to repent (i.e. to turn away from the actions you find shameful and transform your way of thinking so that the actions do not resurface). That’s what it takes to restore the trust.
This process, painful as it may be to initiate, does not always resolve the tension and repair the relationship. Sometimes the offense is too egregious for those harmed and restoration is not possible (which may be the most painful restitution to pay). Sometimes those who are offended are unwilling to accept our apology and we must accept that the damage is irreparable. But then there are times, when you’ve put yourself out there with all vulnerability that you hear the song of hope – “I forgive you”. Then the hurt begins to heal and the heart begins to warm. Then the trust is being restored.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
One final thought: Paul states in the above verse that we ought to forgive just as in Christ God forgave us. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve said, if you come to God in confession, with the promise of restitution and repentance, He will forgive you…always and forever.