Hard Paths, Long Journeys and Tricky Metaphors

Note: I’ve worked on this piece for over a year (a long journey indeed), never quite getting it to where I want it to be. I’m publishing it anyway because I feel the urge to say it, however imperfectly.

“Trust in Jesus… involves much more than just mentally agreeing with information about him. Trusting in Jesus, like trusting in other things, should show up in how we actually live. Our typical American understanding of belief leaves this part out.” — Jesus of Suburbia p 83

I grew up in the  80’s, a time when the poem “Footprints in the Sand” was hung in most Christian homes, or at least the ones I visited. Somehow this vision of Jesus carrying me down a beach became my idealized image of what “trusting Jesus” should be like. The problem is that I never  felt that this image worked. I’m sure the image speaks to many, but I struggle with it. Perhaps I take things too literally. Perhaps I get hung up on thinking about how hard it is to get sand out from between your toes. Either way, I have been trying to develop a better metaphor, a more personal understanding of what trusting Jesus means. DSCN6160

Recently, though, I discovered a glimpse of what that trust looks like. And, like many glimpses of the Divine, it came from a hard place. You see, there are a few people I have been incredibly angry at. Others have been cruel and hurtful.  Reluctantly, I admit that my actions have also created these hard places. Sometimes,  I wake up in the night in a hot sweat dreaming I am screaming in a rage. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to interpret that. I have spent a lot of time thinking up things to say that might hurt others as much as they hurt me.  I have a choice to avoid some people I care about because of anger.

Reading the above quote about trusting in Jesus made me think hard about my decisions. I had to ask myself a few questions: “do I trust that God can bring something good out of loving action in a tough situation?  Can God use love to make this situation better? Which works better: love or anger?” I’ve seen love do some pretty amazing things on this earth. So I begrudgingly had to answer: yes, love works. All. The. Time.  So I showed up when I could have stayed away.  I made sure people knew I loved them, mostly by just being there. I reached out to people I had not been speaking to.  And when people were hurtful, I responded kindly but lovingly. Sometimes creating distance was the most loving thing. Love, rinse, repeat. Many times when I choose love over anger or hurt, I have a knot in my stomach. It isn’t easy, but I keep trying.

Mary  Oliver said, “There isn’t anything in this world but mad love. Not in this world. No tame love, calm love, no reasonable love. Also there are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But who wants easier?”

So what is the next step? More prayer. More love. More faith that the Holy Spirit will use love to fix these things that are broken. It would be especially nice if this fixing looked exactly like I want it to look, thank you very much.  But it likely won’t.  I’m figuring out that prayer, hope, patience, and love are the actions that demonstrate trust. I’m trying to let my faith guide my actions- to let it “show up” in how I actually live. The math (as I understand it today) is this: Jesus is love. Therefore, trusting love is a way of trusting Jesus. No sand required.

Keep trusting love. Would I want it easier?

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