The last two days we’ve been exploring the most powerful gifts in the world. So far we’ve reveled in the gifts of grace and loyalty. Today I’ll begin with a personal story.
My first youth pastorate unfolded like botched origami swan drowning in a hip church. I did fine, I think, especially given the fact that I was fairly new at the whole thing. The problem? The expectations placed on me and the youth ministry. They were so high that a twenty year youth veteran interviewed after I’d been turfed said, “I wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole.” My heart was in the right place, and I think theirs probably were too, but within a few months it became obvious that I wasn’t meeting their expectations.
What was their plan? Was it additional training? Motivation? Or flanking me with people who could compensate for my weaknesses? Nope. Their solution was to micro-manage me. To tighten the screws. I met weekly with a delightful woman (no really) who’d been handed the screwdriver by higher ups. Her checkups were so detailed that she’d ask things like, “So, did you call Bob this week like we planned?” If I had, she’d check it off her list.
Being told I wasn’t measuring up combined with a complete lack of trust slowly sucked the air right out of my soul, until people who’d known me previously wondered where my life and joy had gone.
My next youth pastor position planted me in a more established church with realistic expectations. From day one, they assumed I knew what I was doing, that my obvious heart for Jesus would translate somehow into long term growth. They didn’t expect indoor fireworks on day five, and best of all, gave me the freedom to play, experiment, tweak, and morph the ministry until it really was my baby.
They bestowed on me the gift of trust. And I started to breathe again. I came alive in that place.
This shouldn’t have been a novel concept. “Love always trusts,” Paul says in I Corinthians 13. I was talking to my dad on the phone yesterday about this and we agreed that when you choose to believe the best about people, you tend to get it. His philosophy is totally backwards, at least to most people. I think it’s brilliant. Dad says a person deserves his trust and will get it until they prove he should withhold it. Most folks say trust is earned. Dad says no, mistrust is earned. He and I both could tell you stories about people who have risen to greatness and dignity “for us” while disappointing others (who, incidentally, don’t trust them as far as they can spit).
John Eldredge says he believes in original sin, that we’re all tainted and fallen people. But he goes on to remind us that within the human soul, even deeper than original sin, sits a reality even more profound: original glory, or being made in the image of God. The gifts we’ve been discussing so far—grace, loyalty, trust—draw this potential out like nothing else. They stir the forgotten nobility lying dormant within every human heart. Trust sprinkles the fairy dust of dignity across the sweaty brow of those who need someone to believe in them.
Now, there are people who have proven themselves untrustworthy. I’m not saying accountability is wrong, or that consequences shouldn’t play out. I just think we dump people into that garbage can too quickly (and relish the power we feel while doing it). In part, this is due to something dubbed “the fundamental attribution error,” which describes our tendency to link other people’s behavior to their character while blaming our own behavior on our circumstances. If somebody cuts me off on the way home from work, he’s clearly a jerk. If I “accidentally” cut someone off a minute later, people should give me a break because I’m having a bad day.
People are human. 🙂 This means without consciously giving people—lots of them, all the time—the benefit of the doubt, trust becomes impossible.
Now for the dare. It’s got two prongs to it. First, who in your life needs your trust this week? How can you give it? Express it?
And secondly (wait for it)… who needs your trust back this week, after losing it?