“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
As a lawyer, I favor precision. I like to see a story laid out clearly, logically.
That said, I am married to a writer. The son of an Irish poet. Prone to hyperbole and exaggerated enthusiasm. It’s beautiful, actually. I adore the way he communicates.
But given my wiring, and my training, here’s how I read the Bible.
With ALL my heart? In ALL my ways? No one does it all. That’s impractical. No one CAN do it all. Even if I WANTED to – and I do want to! – I would fall short. So does that mean the promise of straight paths is null and void? Since I didn’t perform on my end of the contract?
I leave these struggles to my interior monologue and continue to write this verse, and others like it, on index cards, which I then affix to my bathroom mirror with Scotch Tape.
But then as I meditate on these verses while, say, brushing my teeth, the wisdom sinks in. I begin to understand the goal. It is a goal, not the expected norm. And goals take work. They take practice.
How do you practice trusting in God with all your heart?
I am reminded here of the time a mentor in New York City told me I had to become emotionally whole before I was ready for marriage. She didn’t mean completely wholehearted – she meant (I think) – moving in that direction and making substantial progress.
I remember thinking:
Great. So…here’s what I have to do…renew my lease, pick up dry-cleaning, shop for a new coat, grab coffee, become emotionally whole. Sure. I’m sure I can get that done. It’ll be a nice little Saturday. Maybe Bed Bath & Beyond…
But then I made an appointment with a counselor. It helped. Then I started confessing some sins to trusted friends from my small group. It helped some more. I began this prayer life I hadn’t embarked upon before, and that really helped. It was a process.
Now, on the trust process.
I was at a Generous Giving conference last spring, and I heard friends talking about the “cycle of care.” They had all been reading Satisfied, by Jeff Manion, where he covers this concept: “God provides, we give, and God provides again.”
Trust gets built over time. When we see something working, our faith gets built up. When we give something over to God, and we see Him working, we trust more.
God’s work can look like a messy breakup.
God’s work can look like not getting the job.
God’s work can look like knee surgery.
God working in our lives does not necessarily mean job offers, engagements, and positive pregnancy tests. (Though it can, and how great are those – thank you God!)
Care runs the gamut.
A sheep knows when it’s being cared for. It may not know while in the veterinarian’s office, but it knows when it’s home and healing, and the pain is going away.
So lately I’ve been trying to give more and more things over to God.
My future plans.
My impatience, my anger, my fear.
Here you go, God. Work it all out God. I do trust You. Not perfectly, but I’m trying to cultivate the habit.
My friend Debbi says that everything she’s given over to God has her “claw marks in it, you know, from trying desperately to hang on.” It always makes me giggle. From the image itself, but also the familiarity. Would that I were to have gently and elegantly placed all things at the foot of the cross. Instead, I’ve dragged some, hurled some and fiendishly clung to others before saying “Fine! Have it!” like a tantrum-prone child.
But at some point, I’m handing my stuff over to Him. Watching Him work. And His work is good. He makes some mighty straight paths.
It’s a process. A scary, messy, exhilarating, self-doubting, exhausting, worthy one. But if you’re going to cultivate any habit, can you think of one more rewarding?
Test Him and see.