For those familiar with Compline, this verse from Psalm 124 is very familiar, but how comfortable are we with actually trusting God with our lives both individually and communally? As a nation, the words In God We Trust first appeared on a coin during the Civil War, although it did not become our motto, replacing Out of Many, One, until 1956 in response to the Cold War. Yet our commitment to building up our military complex and our love affair with an economy that worships wealth suggest we think we need to assist God with the task of helping us.
St. Francis, whose feast day is today, is someone who chose to live entirely reliant on God’s help to a degree most of us cannot fathom. As a young man from a wealthy family, Francis renounced all wealth, insisting on scavenging for discarded food and living among the poor, including lepers whose open sores meant constant risk of infection. While most of us seek greater security in possessions and privilege, Francis chose to follow Jesus’ way of letting it all go. And what he found in doing so was incredible freedom and unquenchable joy that continues to inspire people today.
I confess all of this makes me more than a little uncomfortable. I am not ready or willing to give up everything; and I have to acknowledge that my reluctance to do so reveals my own unwillingness to rely entirely on God’s help. In all of this, I’m thankful when I can remember that God knows this about me and loves me in my very dilemma—that God’s love is in no way conditional on my ability to let go of my image of myself or my reliance on finances or anything else that gives me an illusion of security. Rather the invitation to let go of my reliance on everything else is extended in and out of love, much as a parent encourages a child to let go of their dependence on training wheels. It isn’t that training wheels are inherently bad; they are a good and necessary step, but the real fun comes when you learn to ride without them, feeling the freedom of speed and the joy of the wind in your face.
Learning to trust God with our lives, with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, is not easy and does not come naturally to most of us. And it rarely happens cold turkey, as with Francis. It’s a bit more like moving slowly into cold water by taking baby steps—anyone remember the movie What About Bob, about a man who has to take baby steps toward his own healing and wholeness? Perhaps just seeing how much in our lives and our society is geared toward trusting in things other than God is the first baby step. Perhaps praying for the eyes to see what we’re missing out on when we allow fear and worry to have its way with us. Perhaps it’s as simple—and as difficult—as praying, Oh God I trust, help my lack of trust.
What are your thoughts? We are, after all, in this together. Where the trust of any of us is strengthened, so the trust of all of us is.