WHAT IS TRUST?
I remember, as a child, doing trust falls. Leaning backwards, until I completely lost my balance, waiting for the tiny person behind (who was no bigger than I was) to catch me. Perhaps this was when I learned that trust had to be earned, and that not everyone was worthy for me let my guard down in their presence. Some would be standing right behind me, and seem to forget the game we were all playing. Some would even be calling out, “I’m ready! Do it! Fall back!” and then betray my simple child’s trust, laughing as I thudded to the ground. There was almost a coolness and desirability to being that kid who could fool everyone else, and yet never be fooled. Nothing was more embarrassing than catching another kid, only to fall to the ground yourself. Better to let them fall, and appear strong and indomitable amongst your peers; a beginner’s lesson in betrayal. And so we find ourselves, many of us, walking the streets in a world where eye contact has become almost too much to muster. We listen first and look second. We listen for the kindness we haven’t found, for the words that make us feel brave. We listen for a reason not to hide behind the safety glass. And then, we look up.
The pinnacle of trust is rest. When we can turn our back to someone, and feel safe. When we can fall in their presence, and know that our hope in them is well-placed. And there is one relationship where we not only hope or expect to find this rest; we intuitively know that we have a right to it. Not that we always get what we need — or what our value demands — from our parents, but somewhere deep inside we know that we are not supposed to feel any fear, dread, or pain in association with the words mother and father. When the world lets us down, we are supposed to be able to run home, into the arms of mom and dad, and everything is supposed to be okay. We are supposed to feel valued, supposed to feel seen, supposed to feel supported, and most importantly, we are supposed to be able to look into their eyes and feel that depth of mutual devotion that makes living life worthwhile. And so, we lament the damages done by love lost in our early years.
We can picture it in our minds, even if we’ve never known it, the kind of rest that exists in that perfect parent-child relationship. We can imagine looking into their eyes and feeling… safe. Feeling no tension. Feeling no pressure to perform, no elephant in the room, no tingling sensation of doubt. Just… safe. At peace. Asleep to our worries and utterly un-self-conscious as we sit staring into the eyes of our predecessors, reveling in the reflection of our own worth in that glimmer of pride and adoration dancing across the glass surfaces of their eyes. Enough to put us in a trance-light state as we gaze into the windows of one another’s souls to marvel at the shimmering light of vitality and love pouring through. A feeling we chase, sometimes for a lifetime, even when it seems impossible to find or meant for a worthier soul. A total serenity that comes with feeling close to the ones that came before you, knowing that you share a oneness that no one else in the world can duplicate. And sometimes, having not been able to receive this kind of rest in the love of our own homes as children, we experience finality and solace in the circle of life, as we find ourselves miraculously providing for our own children what we ourselves lack — almost as if Love circled back to find us, to give us a second chance. I have come to find, and have not yet been proven wrong, that having just one devoted and reliable adult can be the difference between growing into a balanced human being and falling into the abyss. With just one source of imperfect-but-loving guidance, we often find ourselves strong enough to climb out of the muck and build a life for ourselves. To the extent that we lack this one thing, and fail to find it later on, we all too often seem to spiral into one vice or another, forever feeling lopsided and deficient in some way — even though there was never anything wrong with us in the first place. Without the mirror of another’s loving gaze, we simply cannot see ourselves as we should. Even as we fall, we are at least fleetingly aware of this immitigable truth. One of the only redeeming forces, however hyperbolized, ridiculed, and fictionalized, is that elusive remedy we like to call true love. Maybe our society idolizes it overmuch, or maybe it’s too rare to expect or find, but I think that our willingness to admit to a passion for finding deep and true love is a healthy form of vulnerability and self-awareness. It’s simply honest. Knowing that I am my love’s, and my love is mine is a special kind of oneness just as real and blissful as the ideal relationship with one’s parents. And unlike one’s parents, we have a sense of agency in searching for, finding, and choosing this person. Being chosen. There’s a different kind of special in the sense of belonging, when someone had a choice whether or not to love you; whether or not to stay with you; whether or not to build a life with you. They had no former obligation to you whatsoever, and yet, they chose you. To choose and be chosen is everything.
And there is nothing we seem to covet more than that couple who really "has it." When they look into each other’s eyes, we see a childlike sense of dependency, a strength of devotion, a mutuality that goes beyond mere commitment and rests deep within the heart. And that’s it, in a word, isn't it? We see rest. If only we can find a way to trust, and to be worthy of trust, we might find this most special kind of love. But is trust, by itself, enough to get us there?
THE BEAUTY IN SURRENDER
Sometimes, in order to experience such beauty, we must take trust to its extreme. To say that I trust someone is merely to say that I place my confidence in that person’s intentions, and perhaps their actions; to surrender, however, is another matter altogether. Surrender is the pinnacle of trust; the utmost extent of un-self-reliance.
But when we think of surrender, the image that usually comes to mind is one of war. We picture two armies fighting in a battle, and one of them is already losing; so, in an effort to preserve their lives, the troops decide to surrender. Arguably, it's a confusing concept to work out in terms of love. What does it mean to surrender to love? Since when, in this cold world, does some kind of Great Love affront us, and put us into such a position of imminent loss that we hoist the white flag? In what scenario is love a conquering force? I would be willing to wager that if you’ve ever been in love, you already know that this interchange actually makes sense. There comes a moment when, in developing a connection with someone, the intimacy and care and longing all seem to find synergy. If only for a moment, you have a choice. You can still walk away. You know that you are about to be overcome, and that once you give in, you probably won’t be able to simply abort the situation. There is something like a threshold, and if you choose to move past it, you know you will cross the point of no return. If you are wise, you won’t have come to this place entirely on accident; but regardless, few and far between are the people who won’t throw themselves with reckless abandon into a loving connection once they’ve found it. And why? Because it feels good, and not only that, but it feels right in some elusively divine way. This does not only describe romantic love, but can even be experienced, say, between a child and adoptive parents; between a teacher and a student; or even in a deep, rich, and meaningful friendship. A lasting bond between two people is formed — it cannot easily be undone.
Of course, we’re almost never so cheesy or poetic as to say, “I have connected with the light of another soul,” but that’s exactly what has happened. As far as I’m concerned, we might as well be honest, and call it what it is — some things, by their very nature, are totally disconnected from all things practical, and this is one of them; love is simply about love. The real question here is: why we hesitate in pursuing and creating meaningful and deep connections in our lives. What, exactly, do we have to lose?
THE COST AND THE REWARD
The truth which reveals itself along the way is that this love, once we have attained it, is not freedom. Indeed, it is the opposite of freedom; you have decided to belong to someone rather than to remain unattached. You have decided to submit your needs to the needs of the other person — or at least to the needs which arise from attempting to merge your life with theirs. You have decided to give up, sometimes, a whole host of other things in order to belong. To be had. To be marked unavailable to the world by someone. Suffice it to say: you have been conquered. And yet, the beautiful and mysterious thing about “true” love is that this conquering is somehow mutual. You have both given up the world to have one another instead; it is a beautiful and strange thing, really. The deeper, hidden jewel in finding love is that through allowing yourself to be conquered, you find a new kind of freedom. A freedom within security; a freedom from loneliness, from heartache, and sometimes even from trauma. Love is a healing force, and when one person can’t or won’t give us what we need — or when they take what we never offered — another person can come along and fill that sad, empty space with the light of their own souls. This can only happen, however, when we are willing to surrender; when we are willing, at long last, to allow love to wash over us unrestricted and unquestioned. The point here is that no one can love us unless we consent to be loved. Full consent, in turn, is only realized in surrender. A resolve not to prevent what is about to happen. A decision to allow something, someone to invade our most private spaces. When we’re closed off and jaded, the openness demanded by real love can feel incredibly dangerous. And perhaps it should; after all, not everyone is worthy of that kind of trust.
WHO IS WORTHY?
It turns out that the Love we are seeking to find in our families, friends, lovers … in reality, our souls are craving something far beyond what any of them can satisfy: Divine Love. Perfect Love. Something powerful enough to change us on almost a molecular level, rewiring our brains to quit the cycle of fear and shame, drenching our hearts in affection and warmth so rich that our thirst is finally quenched. Healing us from within, without adding any damages. Without betraying our trust. Without leaving us holding our aching hearts, longing for that next dose of a better love. Without mistakes and misunderstandings. In truth, there is only one who can give us such a rare and beautiful thing.
Believe it or not, that someone exists! The reality is that God is always speaking to you, is always seeking to share life with you, and he can give you a love with no glass surfaces. No screens or windows, barriers or buffers. Just Love.
But wouldn’t I know it, if God were speaking to me?
Perhaps not, if no one taught you how to listen. Are you not here, right now, reading these words? I don't think that can be a coincidence.
However random or meaningless your life may seem, I already know that God loves you. How? Because I know God personally. And I can tell you that there was a time and place where you were nothing but an immaterialized thought in the mind of God, and then God decided that you were a good idea. He chose you before you existed to be chosen by anyone else.
God has given you life out of a desire to share life with you; all that he really wants is for you to reciprocate, to share your life with him, and to seek him out as you discover the breath and the depth of his love for you, as you become more and more aware of him seeking you. It all begins and ends with this one determination: we love him, because he first loved us. God knows that this life is hard, and sometimes downright awful, and it is not his desire to leave us longing forever. I have known the deepest sorrow and the most piercing pain, and I can tell you that there is no corner of your heart, no matter how dark, no matter how broken, that he can't or won't reach. It begins the very moment that you invite him in and surrender yourself to him. To walk with God is to allow him to shed light on your heart, and to surrender each illuminated fragment to his perfect healing touch. I promise you that there is no peace more serene, no joy more complete, than to be wrapped in his perfect love. Even the most unbelievable suffering finds meaning in his presence, and at the same time the pain melts; it unravels, it dissolves in the warmth of his love.
You could say that God's Love is like a solvent — in goes unspeakable trauma, and out comes unspeakable beauty.
Everything you have been through has a hidden purpose; it’s all something that you can give to God, to allow him to turn it into something beautiful. God created you. He can unmake you. He can re-make you. And, perhaps most importantly, he can show you who you already are in a new light.
I want to be clear here that I'm not here to give you new words to define yourself, telling you that these words are from God. I'm actually talking about you hearing it from God yourself. If you haven't ever heard God's voice before, know that it's real. Lot's of people hear God's voice and talk to each other about what God told them, in many places all around the world, and they have ways to confirm that it's really God's voice. For the purposes of this post, I just want to talk about the reality and the beauty of what is possible - what we can have when we surrender ourselves to the only One who loves us perfectly. When we surrender to God — when we allow ourselves to intentionally let go, to lose balance in his presence, to fall into the arms of God — he is not only right there able to catch us, but he does catch us. Every time. The God of Love gets no joy out of watching his beloved ones fall. Even when we lose our footing, trip, or get knocked out by life, He is always there for anyone who calls out to him. He is the Great Rescuer.
More than that: as you continue to share life with him, he straightens the path out in front of you and plants your feet on solid ground, stopping the world from spinning and the path ahead from twisting itself away from your purpose. God does it all… when we surrender.
The only "but" is that whatever we surrender to Him, He heals and perfects, but whatever we keep away from him, he allows us to keep, even if that means leaving it damaged. Why? Because free will is not just some deeply held value when it comes to God; he invented it. It was his idea in the first place that we should be able to decide things for ourselves, and he won't violate your right to make decisions about what's in your own heart. Period.