I have trust issues. It’s kind of an overused phrase, but there is it. I have issues with trust. More accurately, I don’t trust. I don’t like to trust. I don’t want to. I don’t find it easy or desirable to place any part of my life, safety or happiness in anyone else’s hands. It doesn’t take deep therapeutic insight to understand why – I was abused as a child by someone who should have been safe, who should have been a protector, and my parents were unable, and God unwilling, apparently, to protect or rescue me from that situation. So it’s not complicated or difficult to understand why trust, for me – whether that be in God or other people – seems very foolish and dangerous.
It has proven though, to be a difficult thing for other Christians to understand or accept. That we trust in God is a given, that is what it means to be a Christian, so a Christian who doesn’t trust him can seem like an oxymoron. I understand that. I get that it’s hard to get your head ’round – I can’t reconcile it exactly either – but it is what it is. I am a Christian. I trust in God and I don’t trust him one bit.
It’s problematic, I know. Except that it isn’t really. And I dare to say, it isn’t unusual, it’s just that it feels unspeakable.
I don’t think it’s problematic, because it’s not my trust in God that makes me his – we know this – he is the initiator and perfecter of my faith. I bring nothing … nothing … to my salvation or redemption. I don’t bring the love, I don’t bring the trust. I don’t bring the grit or the courage or the determination. I don’t hold on to him. He holds on to me.
It’s taken me many years to be able to say I don’t trust him, to so completely trust in the enormity of his love and the promise of his grace – in his truthfulness when he says that I am his beloved – to be able to go off script and actually be honest. It has in fact, taken a miracle – a gift of trust; of faith – to take me to a place of that sort of brutal honesty with God. A place of the kind of honest vulnerability from which there is some hope of building a relationship of deep trust and intimacy. Because I can pretend I trust him all my life – and I did – but I can’t stop the self-protective mechanisms that keep him at a distance and try to maintain desperate control of my uncontrollable life.
I can pretend that believing the truth with my head and getting my ticket to heaven is enough for me, but it isn’t. I want more. I want everything. I want Christ and I want the kind of deep, soul joining intimacy and delight in one another, the knowledge of each other and togetherness that he came to have with me. I want freedom. I want life. I want joy. I want Jesus.
And I’m terrified. To say I’m ambivalent would be an understatement. I’m terrified and frustrated and desperate. I don’t want to live like I have been, but the leap of faith into trust is just too frightening. In fact, it’s utterly impossible. Trust by willpower is simply not possible, but neither is living with this kind of suspicion, defensiveness and terror. It’s a pretty awful place to be stuck, let me tell you. Especially when the best that seems to be on offer in the way of help and advice much of the time boils down to, ‘stop sinning by not trusting God, and put your trust in him. He is trustworthy, so trust him.’ Right. Well, I’ve tried it, and all it did was shut me up and lock my heart further away in shame and fear and self-protective silence and isolation. So, please, if you’re tempted to say anything like that, just don’t.
In the end I did the scary thing. The impossible thing. The thing that felt so unspeakable, risky and awful that I had to be truly desperate to do it. I told God I didn’t trust him. I told him that he knew damn well why, that he’d just have to deal with it and if he wanted the situation to change that was on him. It was, in fact an enormous act of trust from a very frightened and broken heart. And he knew that. I know he does, because he has spent the last 10 years of my life pouring words of unconditional love and acceptance into me, so that I could even begin to think about saying it. I say begin, because I take it back regularly. I get scared and I run, and I hide and I push him away. But he is patient and so very kind, and he never stops pouring that outrageous love and grace into me, even when I resist it or distrust it, or just can’t see it or feel it, he never stops loving.
So fortunately for me, it’s not my job to make myself trust him, and my testimony is that when I stopped trying to, little shoots of it started to push through my pain and my defences. Like the first spears of snowdrops that push through the snow and ice before winter has even realised it’s end is coming, the ones that withstand the refreezing of an extra cold snap, that may even be covered again by an unexpected new fall of snow; just like those hardy shoots of promise, trust keeps pushing through. It is drawn out by the warmth of God’s love that keeps shining down, it is nourished by the invisible presence of his Spirit that lives in and enriches the soil of my heart, and it is watered by the outpouring of grace embodied and kept alive in the person that is Christ.
Jesus. My Saviour. The Servant King. The Love of God with a face, with hands and feet. With life and breath and a heartbeat. The Promise. Our Hope.
Jesus. The Saviour who didn’t save me. The Shepherd who let me be savaged. Love, who held his peace, stayed his hand and left me to the wolves.
Who is Jesus and what the hell do I say to him. I can barely look at him, I’m so hurt and so afraid. Hurt by his betrayal and afraid to look him in the eye; afraid of what I might see there, unworthy as I am. What kind of blasphemy calls him betrayer?
For what it’s worth, here’s my advice and help. If you feel betrayed by God, call him betrayer. If you feel let down, call him weak. If you feel wounded, call him abuser. Not because he is those things, but because he knows why it feels that way to you. He sees your hurting, broken heart and he breaks with you and he loves you. He will never stop loving you, he will never walk away in anger or hurt. He is not disgusted or destroyed by your angry, hurting heart. He gave up his life, he willingly walked into torture and death and abandonment so that you could bring all of yourself, every bit of your angry, bleeding, desperate heart to him. Throw it all in his face. He will catch you. Try and make him walk away if that’s what you need to do, give him your worst and I promise you … more importantly, he promises you … that he will never leave you or forsake you. Never. That nothing can separate you from his love. Nothing. Not even you. Not your pain or anger. Not your fear. Be honest with him. That’s all you need to do. Be honest and keep being honest. It may take time – it will probably take a lifetime – but trust will grow, peace will come. Healing is your destiny.
I am still extremely avoidant with Jesus. It’s still scary and awful and unbearable to pray or to let myself feel his presence. But I found I could begin to imagine, to visualise some of my feelings and ambivalence, and begin to interact with that picture at times. I also find I can write, paint or draw sometimes. Often I can’t, but sometimes with a lot of courage and the help of God, I sit down and write or draw, and I know he is here and we are working on this together.
This is my picture, and this is where I am right now. I can’t look at him, I can’t come close and I can’t sit with him. I move around in this image, sometimes I walk completely out of it and sometimes I try and imagine what it would feel like to be nearer, but right now this is where I am. It’s where I have been for a while and that’s ok, because there he is. Loving me. Waiting, understanding, and never letting the darkness win.