HONEY, TRUST ME
Do not plot harm against your neighbor who lives trustfully near you. Proverbs 3:29
"I was about five years old when my mother took me into the back yard. She played a game with me that a lot of parents play with their children."
The woman telling me this story was about fifty years old. She was a patient in an alcohol rehabilitation program and was visiting with me to discuss issues of faith and recovery. Part of our work together was to explore how God could provide the strength she would need to become and remain sober. Another important aspect of our work was for her to identify incidents from her life that caused her pain and shame. That’s what she was doing now.
"My mother took me into the backyard to play a game with me and teach a lesson about life. She taught me a lesson that was so profound it is still with me. I haven’t been able to shake it in all these years. It still haunts me."
"Mom lifted me up on a rock wall we had in our back yard along the cement sidewalk. It was several feet high. Since I was a little girl the wall seemed like a mountain."
"‘Ok,’ mom said, ‘Jump!’"
"Jump? You want me to jump?" I asked my mother?
"‘Of course I do, honey,’ mom said. ‘You jump and I’ll catch you.’"
"But mom, I’m scared! I’m up high!"
"‘I know. But I want you to learn about trust and faith. You jump and I’ll catch you.’"
"Are you sure, mom? Will you catch me?"
"‘Of course I’ll catch you honey. You can always trust your mother!’"
She was intense, this lady. Her voice was subdued, her eyes cast down, but her pain was inescapable. I couldn’t understand why the retelling of this little game was evoking such extreme emotion in the woman. She continued.
"It took considerable prompting but I finally trusted my mother enough. I jumped."
She paused and wept silently for a moment. Then she said, "My mother was standing there with her arms out, smiling, encouraging me to jump. She promised to catch me. But when I jumped, mom lowered her arms, stepped back, and let me fall on the concrete sidewalk. As I lay there crying my mother leaned over me and said, ‘I did this to teach you a lesson. Don’t ever trust anyone. They will always let you fall and you will get hurt.’ Then she walked off, leaving me crying in pain. And I have been in pain ever since."
The jarring of her bones and the tearing of her knees couldn’t compare to the jarring and tearing of her heart. This woman learned her lesson well, and never trusted her mother or any man after her fateful jump. She spent her adult life yearning to be valued by someone, to be held, to be cherished, but she could never hazard the risk of trusting someone to experience love like this. The closest she came to real love was her relationship with a bottle, and it was killing her.
But something deep in her psyche convinced her that this was not the way life was supposed to be. This poor woman knew she had been violated by her own mother, and that good and pure desires and needs had been twisted by her. She wanted to experience life in a new, fresh way. She wanted to love a man and trust that he could really love her.
She knew the first step was to seek help for her drinking, to trust that someone would care enough struggle through the grueling process of recovery at her side. Most of us will never know the superhuman effort required for her to take that first step at a meeting and say to a stranger, "Will you help me?"
Do not plot harm against your neighbor who lives trustfully near you, or against your own spouse or children who live in your home. Trust is a key ingredient in any relationship. Violate it intensely or frequently enough, and you destroy any opportunity for happiness and relationship.
As a child this woman was intentional battered to discourage any faith and hope in other people. Yet we need to trust others, even with their failings, so we can enjoy connection with them. This woman is learning that, and she progressed in recovery and slowly learned to trust others, largely because she was learning about someone who would never let her fall: God.
If you experience an inability to love and trust, because arms that promised to catch you did not, take heart in another verse from Proverbs: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart" (Prov. 3:5). He will never let us fall.