My parish’s Men’s Bible Study is going through Exodus, having completed Genesis last year. As in Genesis, the theme of humble trust repeatedly emerges. It’s a great antidote to prideful mistrust – the “If I were God…” syndrome, with symptoms like, “Lord, hasn’t it occurred to you that…?” With some people, the symptoms are subtle. Others (like moi) have a more severe case.
It doesn’t take too deep an acquaintance with the Bible, and with Church history, to discover that God uses the most unlikely nations, people, and circumstances to accomplish His purposes: Israel’s shockingly humble and transparent history of itself (the Old Testament) shows it to be a rebellious, stiff-necked lot; the Church, even in its Acts infancy, struggled with divisions, heresy, sexual misconduct, and caving to the surrounding culture. The Bible heroes – Abraham, Noah, and Moses; Samson, Gideon, and David; Peter, James, John, and Paul – all had their flaws, often serious ones.
And God moves so slowly! Abraham had Isaac decades after the latter was promised. Israel was enslaved by Egypt for hundreds of years before the call of Moses. Millennia passed before the Redeemer promised to Adam and Eve was born in Bethlehem. Jesus promised, “Behold! I come quickly!” – about 1900 years ago.
The rubber really hits the road in our own lives, however. Although many of us have parents, siblings, spouses, and children for whom we are only grateful, others have to wonder: “Lord, why these parents, siblings, children? Why this spouse?” Few would dispute that we live in troubled times, albeit with conveniences and luxuries our ancestors couldn’t have dreamed of. “Lord, why were my children born into this culture, increasingly at war with Christianity, proclaiming a ‘gospel’ of death? Couldn’t you have placed me and my family in a Little House on the Prairie, with Laura as our neighbor?” This with my little troubles: what kind of questions must the families of the ISIS victims be asking?
The challenge of humble trust isn’t only, or even mainly, about the big picture, however. Let’s say I want to make a difference in the world. I have a big or a little fire in my bones. I’m inspired by the saints; I see the Christians who’ve changed cities and civilizations: St. Francis of Assisi; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta; St. John Paul II; St. Augustine. Do I, really, with my little job, my little family, my little ministry, my small circle of friends and acquaintances, deeply affect anyone or anything in more than the slightest of ways?
If my spouse, children, friends, and co-workers are at all forthright, I’ll be aware of many ways I’ve messed up: opportunities missed and outright harms caused. If I add up the good and the bad, do I come out ahead? Is the world a better place for my being here? Has my life – so far – glorified God? And if so, how much? Even if I can see some good fruit, how scant it is compared to the grace God has poured out on me! St. Francis of Assisi told a brother that he considered himself the worst of sinners: “The worst of sinners would have responded more generously to God’s immense graces to me than I have.” And most would say St. Francis didn’t do so bad.
Humble trust. Lord, I trust that you know better than I. Lord, just who I am; with just my family; just my gifts and flaws; just the nation and culture and era I was born into; just my profession, my parish, my bishop, my pope, my Church with its checked history of glory and disappointment, harm and good; just my training and education; just what I’ve suffered and been blessed with; just my “successful” and failed relationships; just my response and lack of response to Your infinite mercies: You know what You’re about, and I thank You and I praise You for all.
Humble trust. Father, I have no idea whom I’m touching and whom I’m not, through my life and words and deeds. I can’t see with any clarity – though there are heart-stopping glimpses – how Your plan is being worked out in my life and in the world. But I know that it is. With Julian of Norwich, I know that “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.” It’s good that You’re God and I’m not. Everything has occurred to You. There are no holes or flaws in Your plan. You have done all things well. I trust You.