“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. Mark 11:22
When my son was small I remember the delight he experienced when I would throw him up in the air. It was a moment when he would scream with a big smile on his face. The words that came out of his mouth were “higher, higher!, and I was more than happy to accommodate. I would throw him up a little, then more and then finally toward the apex of the vaulted ceiling in our home. There were moments when his delight was tempered with the hint of fear, but that was, in some ways, healthy. It was important to me that my son not only enjoyed the experience, but also respected the danger involved.
All this fun and excitement hinged upon trust. This kind of trust didn’t just happen, but was the result of time spent in relationship and discovering safety and security in my arms, whether I was holding tightly or lifting him high and releasing him into the air. With time he came to believe that I was there not only to throw him up, like a small projectile, but also to catch him as he plummeted back to earth.
We all are in the process of cultivating some sense of faith. It really has to do with figuring out who we think we can trust. Often those connections of trust are damaged by deep wounds and the scar tissue left behind. Those wounds tend to make us less vulnerable, more guarded and generally less trusting of others. Trust, it seems, is somewhat fragile. So, it is often the case that we come to trust only ourselves, our experience, or our own resources. We can remain somewhat suspect of others, their words, their actions and their character guarding ourselves against possible future disappointment. We tend, in this posture, to build more barriers than bridges. We tend, in this posture, to become more isolating than communal.
What we can easily forget is that faith, or trust, is essential to healthy relationships. Trust enables vulnerability which in turn enables intimacy. These qualities are hallmarks of good relationships. In my limited experience, it seems that trust takes time and effort to cultivate, while it takes very little time or effort to compromise. The axiom seems to be, “Faith is nurtured by faithfulness.” When, in relationship, you discover faithful behaviors and faithfulness to what is said, trust is engendered. When, in relationship, you discover a lack of faithfulness manifested in deception, denial, broken promises and betrayal, trust diminishes and is easily replaced by cynicism. And cynicism will never help cultivate deep relationships.
Yet, it has been my experience that words and actions faithfully practiced over time nurture trust. Being faithful with my words and actions takes a concerted effort. In all honesty, my faithfulness and trustworthiness will always be flawed at some level. In humility I must admit that I am not always the paradigm of faithfulness. I have failed at commitments, created expectations that I could never fulfill and broken trust by both words and actions. Ask my wife and children. Yet, as flawed as I am, I still believe that building trust is worth the effort, even when I have failed miserably. Confessing honestly and taking responsibility for my betrayals and failures often is this first step, though not the last step by any means, in restoring trust.
Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” In encouraging faith in God Jesus was communicating something about God’s character of faithfulness. Throughout the sacred Scriptures one of the chief attributes associated with God is faithfulness. Throughout time God has proven, over and over again, to be faithful to humanity. He has specifically illustrated this faithfulness through His relationship with the children of Israel. As God called this group of people into relationship He made a commitment, a covenant, with them that was defined by His promise to be with them and bless them, and through them bless all humanity. The story of this relationship shows God’s continued faithfulness to His promise throughout history. God was laying the foundation for trust by His faithful actions on behalf of Israel, and on behalf of humanity. It is why God is so often associated with faithfulness by the words of His people witnessed to in the Bible.
When Jesus says, “Have faith in God.” it is based upon the rich history of God’s faithfulness to humanity. The foundation for the experience of a trusting relationship with God is that God has shown Himself trustworthy. God has taken the time and made the effort to speak honestly, fulfill His promises at the appropriate time, do what He says and generally behave in a trustworthy manner. He has lived this way with all of His creation since the beginning. Though humanity has broken faith with God on numerous occasions, God has never been unfaithful to His Word of faithfulness.
Having laid a foundation of faithfulness upon which a healthy relationship can be built, the appropriate response to God is to trust Him, to let down our guard, be vulnerable and experience the intimacy He longs to share with us. We best respond by becoming focused once more on God who is trustworthy. What we will discover is that God continues to respond faithfully to us even we fail at our own attempts to be faithful. He longs that we would discover in Him someone more worthy of trust than ourselves. He longs to break down the barriers of fear, defensiveness and cynicism so that we might experience His fellowship and life to the fullest. He longs for us to rest in the assurance that He is there for us always, faithfully embracing us with His great and abiding love.
As we risk the leap across the chasm of fear and doubt into His arms He is faithful to catch us. Have faith in God. As you continue your journey this day, what are the ways God has expressed His faithfulness to you? What is the new place of trust to which He is calling you? May this day be filled with the awareness of God’s faithful presence, there to catch you, love you and lead you as you continue on with Him. May you also extend His faithful love in your relationships with others this day.