The Way Of 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.
Through countless hours of silence, solitude, soul-searching, and prayer, I learned that the act of trust, is an utterly ruthless act.
The film Chariots of Fire won the Oscar in 1981 as the best movie of the year. It dramatized the story of two British runners, Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, who captured gold medals in the 1924 Olympics. Heavy underdogs, the pair triumphed through a remarkable display of character, discipline, and courage. One scene in the film moved me in a profound way:
Lidell, an uncompromising Scottish Congregationalist, has been called by God to serve as a missionary in China at the conclusion of the games. However, his deeply religious sister fears that if her brother wins the gold, he will be so enamored of the fame and glory of an Olympic victory that he will opt out of his missionary vocation. On the eve of the race she pleads fervently with him not to run.
He looks at her with great affection and says, "But God made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure."
The underlying premise of this book: the splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Van Gogh's Sunflowers, the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom.
Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it.
A venerable spiritual mentor, Paul de Jaegher, penned these words:
Trust is that rare and priceless treasure that wins us the affection of our heavenly Father. For him it has both charm and fascination. Among his countless children, whom he so greatly loves and whom he heaps with tenderness and favors, there are few indeed, who truly entrusting themselves to him, live as veritable children of God. There are as few who respond to his goodness by a trust at once filial and unshaken. And so it is that he welcomes with a love of predilection those souls, all too few in number, who in adversity as in joy, in tribulation and consolation, unfalteringly trust in his paternal love. Such souls truly delight and give immense pleasure to the heart of their heavenly Father. There is nothing he is not prepared to give them. "Ask of me half of my Kingdom" he cries to the trusting soul, and I will give it to you.
Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic. When the shadow of Jesus' cross falls across our lives in the form of failure, rejection, abandonment, betrayal, unemployment, loneliness, depression, the loss of a loved one; when we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own pain; when the world around us suddenly seems a hostile, menacing 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 asked 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."
It has been more than four decades since I was first ambushed by Jesus in a little chapel in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania. After thousands of hours of prayer and meditation over the intervening years, I can state unequivocally that childlike surrender in trust is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship. And I would add that the supreme need in most of our lives is often the most over] overlooked-namely, the need for an uncompromising trust in the love of God. Furthermore, I would say that, while there are times when it is good to go to God as might a ragged beggar to the King of kings, it is vastly superior to approach God as a little child would approach his or her papa.
In first-century Palestine the question dominating religious discussion was, How do we hasten the advent of the Kingdom of God? Jesus proposed a single way: the way of trust. He never asked his disciples to trust in God. Rather, he demanded of them bluntly, "Trust in God and trust in me" (John 14:1). Trust was not some feature out at the edges of Jesus' teaching; it was its heart and center. This and only this would bring on speedily the reign of God.
When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went.