Whether I adequately answered the student’s question or not became of secondary importance. Written before me on the blackboard, in my own hand, was God’s initial answer to my quandary of distrust.
Confidence in God was my working definition of faith. It still is. But I didn’t have a definition for trust. Now, written before me were words that gave meaning to my experience. Trust is confidence in God even when it appears He isn’t worthy of my belief. In order to trust God my faith must experience crisis, and it was—a perpetual state of it!
As the words on the blackboard burned into my mind, I saw meaning in my struggle to trust. The stress and dishonorable anxiety in my soul were purposeful, and this in and of itself, was enough to begin building my trust in God. What seemed like random difficulties from the hand of a capricious deity were meaningful after all.
The months added up to years as I meditated on my definition of trust: Confidence in God even though He appears untrustworthy. I had been paddling alone through my sea of skepticism for a long time and there was a lot of open water in front of me. I knew my ability to trust was one wave away from capsizing and that God was the only rescue vessel around. The storm lashed angrily on.
On Easter Sunday, 1987, I was driving home from an early errand, following another car down a residential street. As I watched, a squirrel decided to make a break for the other side of the street. He didn’t make it. The car in front of me hit him and drove on. I pulled over. In my mirror I could see the squirrel struggling to get out of the street. I backed up, got out, and went over to the injured animal. His hind legs were hurt badly and he was bleeding internally. I picked him up and carried him over to the thick carpet of St. Augustine grass in front of an unknown home and knelt down beside him.
His muscles were hard. His claws scratched into the skin of my hands and wrists. His ears laid back against his head in a display of uncertainty and there was terror in his shiny black eyes. I searched in vain for some memory of what to do for a creature in such pain and fear. I wanted to touch him and comfort him, but he shrank from each move I made. I spoke to him with reassuring words straight from my empathetic heart. But to no avail. My godlike, imposing form hovering so close ignited every fear within his squirrel programming.
After a few moments, pulling himself on his belly across the grass while dragging his back legs behind him, the squirrel crawled toward a hedge leaving me kneeling on the lawn in bankrupt grief at the scenario I was sure would follow.
I looked down at my hands spotted with blood, then out at the wounded squirrel. In an instant the scene changed. Suddenly I was in the place of the squirrel, wounded, dragging myself by my fingernails from the towering, hovering presence of God. My distrust throbbed its familiar warning—until I looked past my distrust into the eyes of the figure kneeling beside me. For the first time I caught a glimpse of God’s heart. In a rudimentary and simplistic way, because of where I knelt and the blood on my hands, I grasped where God knelt and how He felt about the blood shed from His hands.
I got it! Enough light breached my darkness that I saw for the first time. God had run across the universe that I placed between us, stopped me in my tracks on Easter Sunday, 1987, and was now using the trauma of His creation to convey His heart to me.
And finally, where I landed with my struggle to trust God.