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Sunday, December 14, 2008

learning to trust - part 1

Seven months ago, I met with Tom Johnson at Chapters. He was preparing to retire from teaching at George Fox, and I wanted an opportunity to sit and have a conversation over coffee with this incredible man before he and his wife moved to the Seattle area. I didn't really know Tom very well, as we had little interaction beyond a few work-related things (he played a critical role in the presidential inauguration that I was responsible for). What I knew of him, however, was that he was a very well-respected, and much loved faculty member who deeply cared for others.

We talked a bit about The Shack, as he was planning on doing some writing about the book. He wanted to get my thoughts, and I wanted to pick his brain a bit too. It was a fascinating conversation. As we wrapped up the discussion about the book, Tom began asking questions about me: my background, my goals and desires, and what God was teaching me. I answered each of his questions, but as is my nature I held back a bit. This was in the midst of a fairly rough patch of life. A short but promising relationship had just ended, and I was a bit lost and overwhelmed as a result. Even though there are probably few people who can be trusted more in this world than Tom, I resisted complete vulnerability.

I did share that I had been wrestling a bit with trust, more specifically how, when and why I trust (or don't trust) God. What I found is that when confronted with deeper spiritual questions like this, Tom is a great person to talk through it with. He shared a bit about his own journey, careful not to imply that his experience held all the answers. As we concluded our time together, he suggested that I read Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning. This book had really impacted Tom, and he thought that it may help me process through some of my thoughts on trust. It sounded like a good idea, and so I added it to my long list of books to read.

Several days later I had lunch with my friend Katie. As we talked about life she asked, "Have you ever read Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning?" I just smiled. She too spoke of the impact that this book had on her own spiritual journey. Two strong recommendations of a book that I had previously never heard of, by two disparate people in the span of a few days was enough for me. I bought the book later that day.

This morning, seven months later still wrestling with some of the same questions about trust, I started reading it with intentionality. (I've started it a few times over the past few months, usually as I am laying in bed falling asleep. And with school as an excuse, I just haven't made time for it. The snow outside became the perfect opportunity to begin.) I am quite sure that there will be a number of blogs that come out of this reading in the next few days and weeks, but for now I'll share a few quotes that stood out today.

"Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of use destroys childlike trust in the Father's active goodness and unrestricted love" (p. 6).

"The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision of guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise"
(p. 13).