Today’s Word from Pastor Tom…
Every year, as a part of our confirmation program, I would take those students preparing for their Aﬃrmation of Baptism to a high ropes course. Safety is the critical word for this experience. Every participant is double-linked to a steel cable for every exercise. No matter how many times one is told they can trust their equipment, there is something about being 40 feet above the ground that challenges any notion of trust. On the ground, jumping over a 3-foot gap is no big deal; looking down 40 feet between two stations 36 inches apart can be paralyzing.
Some activities are meant to be accomplished with a partner. Take my word for it when I say the anxiety level becomes amplified when a high ropes exercise is dependent on someone else. Now, besides having to trust their equipment, one has to trust a fellow participant. Picture standing on a single steel cable facing your partner 8 feet away. Your mutual task is to lean out and join hands forming an “A.” It only works if each person is mutually committed. If one person holds back then both fall from their cable and both are left hanging (thankfully) from their gear. It is all about trust. Forty feet up. Every confirmand had to do this exercise with me. We would meet in the middle forming an “A,” and then inch sideways on our respective cables that were becoming progressively closer.
You could hear my (sometimes) calm words echoing throughout the forest, “Don’t quit on me! Don’t hold back! If you pull back, we both fall! Don’t stick your butt back, lean in to me! C’mon we can make it!” Does that sound encouraging? No? Okay, maybe there was just a tish of fear in my voice, yet when we were both mutually committed, it worked! We safely reached the other side (metaphor!). It did not matter if there was a difference in our size because there was always a relative balance point that worked if we both remained committed. Forty feet up these future leaders of the church were learning how to trust in a pretty powerful way. I did this for over twenty years. I still have muscles that ache.
In all my years of pastoral ministry I came to the conclusion that, in life, there is probably no greater grievance experienced than a breach in trust. An unresolved breach in trust has undone many a relationship. It has left families divided for generations. It does not have to be something large like marital infidelity. Family counseling often reveals a slight that is years old and can be completely unknown by the offender. The event does not have to be big to have a response that is dramatically larger when (mis)trust is involved. There are few experiences that have broken my heart more than to witness a child who cannot trust a supervising adult or parent. Their life is irreparably shaped.
Andy Rooney, of 60 Minutes fame, once did a piece on the power of a grandchild reaching to take the hand of a grandparent. The trust inherent in that act is life-shaping. When Viv reaches for my hand, I know a joy like no other in life. You know, a person can will themselves from within to be happy, but you cannot will yourself to have joy. Joy is a gift that comes from outside. Joy is a gift from God. Like a granddaughter reaching up to take a grandpa’s hand. Oh my, such joy. I would literally rather die than betray that trust.
So, God puts on flesh that we might not somehow simply trust in the idea of a God who could love us, but that we would learn to trust the person of Jesus who was God incarnate. Thomas wanted so bad to trust in the words of his fellow disciples who had seen the resurrected Jesus. When Jesus appeared again, he said, “Thomas, put your fingers in my side.” Sounds gruesome. That’s how much Jesus loves the Thomas in each of us. Here, put your fingers in my side. It’s like, 40 feet up, “C’mon, reach out, trust me! I’m not going anywhere. We can do this! We can get to the other side!”
I used to love trusting my rigging, hanging 40 feet up. It feels good to let go and trust. Stay safe, God loves us,