BY CHARLOTTE O
Do you trust me?
He looks into her eyes, holds out his hand, and asks her to jump. From Justin Bieber to Chris Pratt, it’s a trope that just won’t seem to die. So familiar that it doesn’t even bother us that the male model in what is usually a pivotal romantic scene that draws the leading lady into a danger-laced adventure has often done little to actually earn her trust, and more often than not, is actively deceiving her about something (forgive my cynicism, but I’ve consumed a few too many Hollywood romances, including, most recently, Passengers). In reality, though, trust is hard won and given in proportion to commitment, character and intimacy. But that part of relationships doesn’t fit into a 116-minute film.
It all started with Aladdin in fact. He is masquerading as Prince Ali and invites the princess to join him on his magic carpet. Despite the fact that the entire relationship was founded on deception, the couple still got their happily ever after once the hero proved through bravery and self-sacrifice that he was worthy of love after all. However this fails to teach children one important thing: telling the truth is braver than lying. Relationships require vulnerability, transparency, and constant forgiveness. A single grand gesture doesn’t replace that. But then again, that’s the reason why so many romance films end at the wedding. No one wants to see the mundane struggles of life together. To be honest, I don’t know much about that, but I do know how hard it is to let go and trust both God and others when it seems easier to just take care of things myself.
While I could keep ranting about Hollywood ideals seeping their way into our lives like Inception, it may be more constructive to turn the conversation to deeper issues. Where does trust live in terms of our relationship to the Creator of the Universe?
For every reason we have to trust him, it seems that there are also reasons to doubt. There are earthquakes and floods and good people with cancer, cases where it’s really hard to blame others or human sin for our problems. Even insurance companies call these things an “act of God.” It’s hard to trust God when the world around us is telling us that nothing is certain. We see in part – but that’s not satisfying.
Being in the church and leading bible studies for so many years, a hundred Christian answers come to mind when these questions come up, but I can acknowledge that they simply don’t satisfy the pain of those who are suffering. So maybe trust in God is built through making a commitment in faith, understanding His character and living in continued intimacy with him. We often talk about “practicing” or “exercising” our faith. And I believe that it is something that gets stronger as we grow and use it. Each new step of faith starts with just that: a step of faith. An action taken despite the unknown that leads to further understanding of the reality of God and the world. Maybe it looks more like the movie trope than I imagined. If we are willing to take a step (or leap) of faith, how can we be sure the one who is holding out his hand can be trusted? A selfish, deceptive God is no God at all.
We continue to get to know God’s character through the Bible, but even that can be fraught with misunderstanding. Is our God the God that is wrathful or loving? Most helpful to my own faith is looking at Jesus as the perfect reflection of who God is and how he wanted to reveal himself to us. As it says in Colossians, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. The more we truly understand the character of God: his goodness, his love, his faithfulness, the easier it is to trust him. We can’t trust him if we don’t believe he is good and has our best interests at heart. And that’s why we so often surrender things to him only to quickly take them back.
Although it says in Psalm 118:8, “It is better to put trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” It also seems to be true that the more we have been hurt in relationships, the harder it can be to trust in God. The more we understand God’s character, the more we can have confidence that he is, indeed, trustworthy. His Grand Gesture to us in the cross was the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, and even vulnerability. God gives us the option to reject him, even knowing how painful it is. I believe that as we learn to exercise trust and vulnerability in relationships (thank you Brené Brown), it becomes easier for us to let go and trust God as well.
While our relationship with God often begins with a single proclamation or action, it continues to be built over time as we live in his goodness and walk in his presence. Do you want stronger faith? Start practicing it. Build it up through the rhythms of your life and take the leaps when they become available. After all, God is at the very least more trustworthy than a cartoon prince.
I'm Charlotte O. I'm currently working with a non-profit organization in Taiwan where I teach, lead English Bible studies, write educational materials, train teachers, pose for pictures, and a bunch of other stuff too. I'm originally from Canada, spending significant amounts of time in all three westernmost provinces. I don't really know where to call home anymore, but that's ok, because I'm a citizen of heaven. I've learned that life overseas is not as exotic as people may think, but life with God is a daily adventure. I'm excited to join Bold Cup as a 'foreign correspondent.' I’ll try to keep my posts in English though. Check out more of Charlotte's articles.
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