Believe me when I say this- you can’t be trusted. And neither can I. Trust is a hard thing to give and can only be done when we know someone can keep it. Keeping trust with someone over something requires that the something is placed in an escrow of protection in order to keep it safe and sound and ready for use when needed. We start out trusting very early in life and then lose the ability to trust a little more each day. Babies are expert trusters. Adults need remedial classes constantly. Sometimes I wonder if I will even be able to trust anybody over anything by the time I am 99.
“ I trust you God. As far as the East is from the West I trust you that much. It is me that I don’t trust. Sometimes I am trustworthy, but sometimes – many times – I am not able to really lean into me to do the right thing, say the right words, or act the right way. It’s not you. It’s me.”
This is likely a conversation that many of us have with ourselves and God, but with nobody else. There is safety in telling God that we don’ trust ourselves. There is solid process and perhaps healing in telling that truth to ourselves. We just don’t want anybody else to know that we don’t trust the man/woman in the mirror.
I learned this lesson hard this week.
Friday night a week ago I took the Ballard 5 to Baskin Robbins for ice cream. We love it there and since Blue Bell is retooling its business these days we will likely become more frequent in our visits. I love “World Class Chocolate.” Sugars likes “Birthday Cake” and momma likes some kind of cookie dough mix. The boys made their order and I paid the bill. While we sat outside and enjoyed our cream, Lily – a 20ish girl I had never seen before – aimlessly walked by and nearly bumped into me. She was talking out of control, walking in front of cars without looking, cussing a blue streak, threatening an unseen person and acting as out of control as you can imagine. That was when I wondered if I could trust myself in this situation to do the right thing for Lily.
She walked off from us while I flagged down security and told him to follow her. I was afraid that she might do something to customers on the sidewalk, but I was most afraid she would walk outside onto FM 1960 and get run over. I feared that when I sipped my morning coffee I would hear local NBC tell me that a pedestrian was killed overnight in NW Houston. I knew I couldn’t trust Lily to take care of herself and remain safe.
When I got in my car, going home just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. We circled the area and found Lily creating a stir at Starbucks. I parked the car and went for her. From the moment I walked up to her and asked if she was ok until the time that the police/paramedics arrived Lily was kind and gentle with me. Something had happened to her and she was sick/traumatized/under medicated/ high/ or just plain crazy. Maybe all of the above. I talked to her for an hour waiting on help while she rambled on and on about people she knew, but didn’t seem to know their location presently. I watched her paint her leg with mascara, try to recharge a calculator she thought was a phone, and clean her ears 10 times with dirty swabs she would find in the bottom of her purse. Lily was pitiful in that condition, but I knew she was somebodies daughter and she needed help. Thankfully first responders came and helped her. That night while they did their job I knew I had done my job. You know, that Christian job to help the hurting and helpless. I had been a good missionary and God had to have noticed. On that night I proved that God could trust me with important work for the kingdom and I could trust myself to put others first and be the good neighbor that I have been called to be.
It would only take a week to undo that level of trust.
Last night I sat in a community outdoor theater in the park district to watch a very high quality stage production by a youth theatre group. I was a bit hot and bothered because the seats were right in the sun and because my kids were whining about being hot and bothered in general. That didn’t say it, but I could hear them thinking, “Dad, last summer you took us to NYC to watch Les Miserables in the Amsterdam Theatre and tonight we sit in the sun to watch Hairspray while fighting mosquitos and having to drink water from the fountain. No fair.”
While this scenario played over in my head I barely noticed the lady sit down next to me and push her bag under her seat. It only took a minute to realize that not only was this person next to me and alone, she was most likely homeless and carrying everything in the world she had. Just like Lily the week before. This girl was silent and said nothing. Neither did I. Not one word for 2 hours. During the first act she put a few Lay’s potato chips in her mouth and ate a cup of salsa. She then washed that down with a mix of a couple of partial drinks – coffee and water – she had brought to the seat. I am certain she had picked them up from the trash on her way to the East section, Row X. That was her dinner.
And I did nothing. I didn’t ask her name. I didn’t ask if I could get her a bottle of cold water or some more food to bring nourishment. I didn’t ask if she needed a ride anywhere. I didn’t ask her anything. I just watched the theatrical production and laughed along right on cue. Epic fail. Don – you can’t be trusted!
One week I respond to someone in need and feel I can trust myself to live a life on display with God’s love. The next week it never crosses my mind to bear any witness at all that I even noticed my sister in her time of need. With $100 cash in my pocket and enough credit to buy every ticket in the theatre I offered her none of it. Worse than not being her provider I was not her friend. I never acknowledged her. Not necessarily in a rude kind of way, but in the “I’m too busy to be bothered with your problems right now” kind of way. When our human nature takes over we lean on our expertise to judge, protect, isolate, and ignore the pain of others. That can’t be how we are supposed to live. That can’t be what God had in mind when he created us and recreates us in the image of Christ. That can’t be the way people of trust respond in situations that need the most trustworthy of the kingdom to respond to people in need.
I can’t be trusted. And neither can you. None of us can. Our flesh is weak and our spirit is confused. We most often want and pursue what accommodates our life and our desires. Everybody else is on their own unless their point of need intersects with a moment of convenience in our schedule or budget. The public would be foolish to put their trust in us to be generous Samaritans and we are plain old stupid to trust ourselves to do the right thing for someone that we are not related or aligned with. That puts the homeless, orphaned children, battered women, the mentally ill, the socially isolated, the terminally ill, the helplessly addicted (and others) in extreme places of unfortunate strain because those that could and should help them can’t be trusted to really help them. Those who need to be able to trust us most find that we only show up when we sense a bit of guilt or are getting a t-shirt for our involvement. It seems that our service to others and acts of kindness are almost always about us/me instead of the one needing the help up or the hand out.
We just can’t be trusted. We need help, a lot of help. You might even say we need a miracle.
Thanks be to God. Our help has come, is coming, and will come again.
Proper 6 B / 2 Corinthians 5:
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. 11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences.