In my heart of hearts I know Jesus asks me that question every single day…multiple times a day. The easy, nearly automatic answer is “yes, of course.” But when I’m really honest with myself, I think that’s just the answer I know He wants to hear. Last night I realized that the truth is that I don’t fully trust Him. I trust Him with this thing or that thing, but not with every thing. I was spazzing out a bit over my latest hang-up in life: finances. There was something deep within me that kept reminding me that everything, in the end, would be okay, and yet, I wanted some reassurance. So I turned to something that I’ve recently forgotten: the Bible. Sure, I pull it out for youth group planning sessions and occasional other things, but I don’t really pray with it. So I pulled out the first Catholic Bible I ever got (the one from the Church when I was in classes for Confirmation).
Now, before I tell you what I found you should have an understanding of what this Bible has been through. Its the only Bible that gets a case (if you’ll remember I was a theology major in college and now I’m a youth minister…I have at least seven Catholic bibles), and it gets a case because it is literally falling apart. I’m about to lose most of Proverbs and the binding is about to split this cherished Bible into a few different sections. I love my other Bibles and I use each of them for different things, but this Bible and I have been through a lot together. I’ve written notes in the margins, highlighted, re-highlighted passages, dog-tagged the pages, bookmarked sections, paperclipped things on certain pages and loads of other things. I once read a sign that said, “a Bible that is falling apart belongs to a person who is not.” Brilliant. Over the years I’ve marked different passages so when I open it again I’m never quite sure which passages I marked last time, which is why last night’s expedition into the Word of God was so…divine. I opened this Bible because its my personal Bible, the one I always open when I feel down and out or lost and confused and it always opens to just what I need to read. I love this Bible (not that I don’t love the other ones, but my relationship with them is different). I had a passage in mind and, lo and behold, it was already marked in my Bible:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into the barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ all these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” – Matthew 6: 25-34
It is a passage I’ve read more times than I’ll ever know. Its been highlighted more times than I can count. I’ve put stars around the verses that I bolded, I’ve underlined it and had it written down in more places than I can count. And yet every time I read it, it strikes me, hits me upside the head and shows me just how much I need to trust God…and how much I’ve failed to trust him. “O you of little faith” makes me want to sit in a corner in time-out because God knows just how much I’ve failed to place my complete trust in Him. Still, I find hope in this passage because even though I feel like I deserve a long time-out from God, the passage tells us, encourages us to move on…to seek first the kingdom of God, not to worry about tomorrow…God will take care of tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. And the day after that. And they day after that. And…even the day after that.
Then I spent some time just flipping through my beloved Bible, reading over other verses I’ve highlighted…and there are a lot of them. I’ve read this Bible cover to cover a few times so there are multiple highlighter colors throughout. I even went through that “sparkly-glittery pen” phase in this Bible. Then I came to the ONLY other passage I had bookmarked. How fitting that the only two passages I have bookmarked are about trust…
“Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the lord. He is like a tree planted besides the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. More torturous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart.” – Jeremiah 17:5-10
This verse always takes me to one of my favorite places in the world (that I’ve actually been to), and my favorite place to watch a sunset: Mepkin Abbey. Its this tiny little Trappist monastery in Moncks Corner, SC with some of the coolest monks I’ve ever met (with the obvious exception of the Benedictine monks at Belmont Abbey, where I went to college). Its the most peaceful place on earth I’ve ever been to and anytime I’m in the Carolinas I do all that I can to visit, even if only for an hour. This place is my “happy place” where I close my eyes and travel to often. I can’t say enough about how much I love Mepkin Abbey. This place literally calms my soul.
That picture hardly does it justice…but one time when I was on retreat at Mepkin in college I meditated on this verse the whole weekend and fell in love with this tree.
What’s my point in all these ramblings about my tattered Bible and these extended passages about trust? I don’t trust God fully…not yet. I want to be like that tree, planted beside the waters of God’s love, certain that no matter how bad the drought may be, His love will nourish me. I want to be certain that tomorrow will take care of itself, that I don’t have to worry, and the only way to do that is to surrender, to move myself, my life, my hopes, my fears and my dreams and plant them beside the waters and stretch my roots out to the streams of His loving goodness. I want to be that tree…every time I go back it gets bigger and more beautiful – it, unlike me, remains rooted by the water. It continues to grow because it doesn’t move away from the water (yes, I know trees can’t actually move, but go with the metaphor). By our own free will, we can, and often do, move away – sometimes consicously, other times unconsciously – from the waters of His love. I took that picture nearly three years ago and every time I’m there I take nearly a hundred pictures of THAT tree. Why? It inspires me, it reminds me of that passage in Jeremiah and it moves me to trust. So thanks, trusty, old, falling-apart Bible for reminding me of that tree.
Lord, I don’t fully trust you yet. Help me, help us all to be like that tree, planted beside Your streams, Your ocean of unending love. Help us to not worry about tomorrow, rather, help us to trust in Your plan. Jonah didn’t trust…he was swallowed by a whale. Grant us a servant’s heart that we would follow You, like Daniel, into the lion’s den, knowing You will guard us always.
“Heal me, Lord, that I may be healed; save me, that I may be saved, for it is you whom I praise.” – Jeremiah 17:14