“So you’re not going to leave the building?” he asks, and I can tell by the pooling liquid in his eyes that he’s trying hard to hold it together.
“Promise. I’ll just be down the hall. You’ll be okay.”
He clenches his jaw and nods, then holds out his hand, pinky extended.
“Pinky promise,” I say, and our fingers entwine in that ancient and unbreakable vow. His little finger feels tired and reluctant. I mess up his hair, give him a hug, and walk away.
* * * * *
I want my trust to be buoyed by something tangible. I want to tether my trust to concrete facts. I want to stake my trust in the ground of the known so that I can walk away, take long hikes through the forest of self-sufficiency, and return whenever I want, knowing that I left trust in a certain clearing. Waiting for me.
But trust, ruthless trust, is like spring water or smoke: it is always moving, and it refuses to be nailed down. It is not something to be summoned up at whim. If I want to surround myself with trust, I have to seek it out, then go where it leads.
I’m learning this as I watch him walk through a forest of anxiety. I see how he grasps for the cool, hard surface of the known. He tries to create pillars of certainty on ground that can so easily be washed away: the life of a loved one or my expected return in 60 minutes’ time. I’m beginning to see that for him to get through it, he’ll have to come to grips with the unknown, the terrible possibilities, the absence of promise. Trust is not trust if it’s based on the naive belief that everything will go the way I want it to go.
As I watch him, I see me. Such high hopes I have for us, that we can both enter that place of peace found only in ruthless trust!
* * * * *
“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future.” – Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust
* * * * *
I peek my head around the corner. He sees me and comes walking over.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” I ask him.
“Nah,” he says, smiling. “I had a great time.”
This time I won’t say I told you so because I know the difficulty of walking in that trust, that peace. I know how scary it can be, leaving the known behind, turning my back on the certain. But I also know those moments of floating, when all the constraints of this world fall away (if only for a day or a season). I know how it feels to genuinely not care about money, or future, or fate. To be present.
Even though he’s almost too old, or sometimes pretends to be, I reach over and grab his hand and hold it while we walk outside. Into the fresh, autumn air we go, and I find myself asking God one question.