I’m in that place where the question “How are you doing?” feels way more complicated than it’s supposed to be.
It seems as though unrelenting bravery has been required for awhile now. Raw honesty. Seemingly unending vulnerability. It has been heart-wrenching. It has been exhausting. But I am also doing fine. I am joyful, numb, stressed out, at peace, sad, and content. I feel it all.
I asked God, months ago, to be gentle with my heart, and my current circumstances have left me feeling like he chose to ignore that request. Yet, in the midst of it, surprisingly, strangely, gracefully, I don’t feel undone- I feel, for the most part, steady, joyful, fine. I have had my moments of feeling overwhelmed by confusion, inadequacy, hurt, and loss, but I am letting myself be where I am, and that has made all the difference in the world. I am in this place of sweet and raw honesty with myself and God– a somewhat new way of being– asking God to reveal himself. To show up. To show me what He is really like in the waiting, in the uncertainty, in the overwhelmedness.
“I know that God is loving and that God’s loving is trustworthy. I know this directly, through the experience of my life. There have been plenty of times of doubt, especially when I used to believe that trusting God’s goodness meant that I would not be hurt. But having been hurt quite a bit, I know God’s goodness goes deeper than all pleasure and pain– it embraces them both.” —Gerald May
I found this beautiful quote in Brennan Manning’s book Ruthless Trust. (If you don’t know this delightful soul, please, I implore you to find a copy of one of his books and drink deeply of his fire hydrant of grace!) This quote struck me- the honesty and steadiness of Gerald May’s belief. And I can resonate– it is a confusing process to confront our assumptions of God’s love, and how we expect that to be displayed in our stories. To have our eyes opened to the reality of our mistrust revealed in our actions of self-protection, over-planning, incessant anxiety, and despair.
This begs the question– what does it actually look like to trust God? Because I’m pretty sure it means an absence of struggle, a complete certainty and unwavering happiness. It is a soul deeply at peace because she knows who she is- one loved by God.
In the midst of this hard season, I am surprised to find in myself a harvest of trust that had been planted in me, quietly setting down roots in His love.
“Behold the splendor of a human heart that trusts that it is loved.”
Manning talks about “ruthless trust.” Relentless, without (self)pity, unwavering despite outside circumstances.
Relentless trust looks like letting go of the security blankets of certainty or even clarity— that shields you from the risk of trust.
Ruthless trust means a logic defying self-acceptance that perpetually rejects the need to prove or earn worth, that refuses to any longer go down the well-worn paths of self hatred or shame.
Ruthless trust looks like a freedom to be honest-– letting go of being astonished or embarrassed by our own depravity as we realize that our God isn’t.
This trust frees us up to actually be kind to ourselves– to be gracious towards our fearful, exhausted souls, rather that a harsh demand to “do it right.” (which has never resulted in anything good anyway, am I right?)
The movement towards trust is a freeing permission to be where you are– to realize the story of your life is in process, even if you can’t see how it all will turn out right now.
Unclenching my grip on expectations of how it “should be” allows me to actually enter into what is– reality.
It’s a mystery to me how much of this is choice and how much is something to be received, but I know it is a grace-laden process, slow and messy. How much can I choose to orient my life around the reality of his goodness, and through the practice of gratitude and and prayer, work to cultivate deepening trust? Or is it that as I make my heart ready for his Reality, he bestows the very ability to see things as they are and grants a deep hope in my soul, opens my eyes to his trustworthiness? Maybe it is both.