Trust: Skating on Thin Ice
By Audrey Stallsmith
During the Olympics, I like watching the pairs skating better than the singles. It seems to me that it must require a higher level of skill to coordinate all one’s moves with those of another person than to skate alone. As I watch a male skater swing his female partner by the ankle, with her head only inches from the ice, I also realize that what they do requires a mammoth amount of trust.
Trust is something I’ve never been very good at. I had to skip my usual morning for writing these articles yesterday, due to a dentist appointment. Although I’d originally planned to make up for it today, the cost of that dentist appointment spurred me to start restoring my bank balance by writing a gardening article instead.
I felt too guilty to concentrate on it, though, so here I am! I realized that my actions betrayed a lack of trust. God has said that he will take care of us if we put him first, and I usually have enough to get by, even if only barely enough.
I’m one of those people who really needs a stockpile to feel safe, which is probably why God isn’t giving me one. I obviously put too much trust in money and what money can do, and as G. K. Chesterton asserts in Orthodoxy, “The whole case for Christianity is that a man [or woman!] who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man. . .”
God wants me to trust him enough to feel secure without that back-up. Deep down, however, I must have a seldom-acknowledged fear that He is going to miscalculate—or drop me! It is a silly doubt because, as Hannah Whitall Smith notes in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, “You find no difficulty in trusting the Lord with the management of the universe and all the outward creation, and can your case be any more complex or difficult than these, that you need to be anxious or troubled about His management of it?”
In fact, we are part of that creation too and, as such, actually belong to God – not to ourselves. As Frederick Buechner reminds us in Telling Secrets, “Even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God.”
Although we call God or His Son “Lord” frequently, how often do we really act as if He is our owner and thus has both authority over us and responsibility for us? C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way.” The worry is the part that gets me!
Our relationship with God is never going to work, however, if we try to jerk free every time we start feeling uncertain. I recall watching a movie years ago about a pair of skaters who were openly antagonistic towards each other. As I recall, the man was an ex-hockey skater who hated being reduced to something as wussy as figure skating, while the girl was a prima donna who wanted everything her own way.
Although their mutual dislike made for some funny scenes, they weren’t successful on the ice until they started learning to trust each other. This is especially necessary for the female, who has to rely on the male to be strong enough to hold her up through all those difficult lifts—and to return her safely to the ice.
As Henri Nouwen points out, “I can only fly freely when I know there is a catcher to catch me. If we are to take risks, to be free, in the air, in life, we have to know that when we come down from it all, we're going to be caught, we're going to be safe. The great hero is the least visible. Trust the Catcher.”
The only way to have that kind of trust is, of course, to be honest. It seems sacrilegious to say to God, “I thought you let me down back when—“ But, since he already knows about all our reservations, we might as well spill them anyway. Such feelings aren’t likely to dissipate until we stop trying to keep a lid on them, and let them out into the light and air instead. We begin to show true trust in doing so, by believing that God loves us enough to take our honesty without disowning us.
The final question on trust is “Do I really believe that God is always good, that God is always love, that he always has my best interests at heart?” If we can, for once and all say “yes” to that, we can put off learning the whys behind his refusals until a better time and place. And we can find the slippery surface of life an exhilarating stage on which to perform a dance of trust, rather than a trap for unwary feet.