What I Discovered in an Old Christmas Video From 2009

Photo by Steve Halama via Unsplash
Photo by Steve Halama via Unsplash

Seven years ago, Maile and I had just gone through one of the most difficult holidays of our young lives. I had just turned 33. We had walked away from a failing business, left a community we loved, and moved into my parents’ basement. We brought along with us our four children, $50,000 in debt, and a nagging sense that we were failing at this thing called life. All of our friends seemed to be doing very well for themselves. They seemed to be right where we imagined you should be when turning the corner into your early 30s: decent vehicles, a mortgage, and well-rounded children playing soccer and the violin and learning three different languages.

We, on the other hand, were starting over. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

This period of life came to mind again as we watched some old home movies with the kids between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, it didn’t just come to mind – it was right there in living color for us to experience all over again. The Christmas of 2009.

There the kids were in the video, unwrapping a meager stash of gifts in my parents’ basement. I don’t remember how we paid for gifts that year. I can’t really remember. There sat Maile and I, looking somewhat depressed, somewhat dazed. Life had run over us with a steam roller, and the kids didn’t seem to have a clue.

While we watched that video (it seemed to come on the television out of nowhere), Maile looked over at me and wrinkled her nose.

“I’m not finding this one particularly enjoyable,” she whispered.

“Me, neither,” I said.

But the kids were caught up in it, remembering this, remember that. And they were so tiny, their voices squeaky new: Cade only 6, Lucy 5. Abra and Sammy were just babies: 20 months and 5 months, about the same ages as Leo and Poppy are now.

Tonight, though, as I think back through that time and the images in the video, one sentence came to mind: “That’s what trust looks like.”

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I love Henri Nouwen’s take on trust:

Trust is the basis of life. Without trust, no human being can live. Trapeze artists offer a beautiful image of this. Flyers have to trust their catchers. They can do the most spectacular doubles, triples, or quadruples, but what finally makes their performance spectacular are the catchers who are there for them at the right time in the right place.

Let’s trust in the Great Catcher.

Even after I finished my post last week – An Honest Reflection on Self-Employment, Canceled Contracts, and Hope – I continued thinking about it quite a bit. I felt like it was unfinished, that perhaps I had left something unsaid that needed to be said. And I realized that this is it: the most important ingredient in this life of self-employment has been trust.

Not that I have always had perfect trust in God. Not that I haven’t been assailed with worry or anxiety from time to time (or more often than that) – my distrust becomes evident mostly in times when I begin working on a resume. Yet, the single most important thing that has taken me from this day to the next has been a determination to trust that God knows what God is doing. God knows what Maile and I are going through. And God is using it all in this tapestry of mercy and grace, a creative endeavor of which I only ever receive the smallest glimpse.

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This is not meant to be a sermon, or a guilt trip. If you are not doing what you feel you are called to do, or if you are not “living the life” the televangelists are shouting about, I am not here to tell you that the reason is a lack of trust. I don’t believe that God approaches us with a Trust-Me-Or-Else approach. Trusting God is not something that will always bring monetary rewards. It is not something that will elevate you above your peers or bring you a world’s helping of success.

But I will say this: trusting God is a conscious decision to move into a gentler movement of mercy. I have practiced trusting all these long seven years, and I can feel it strengthening in me. I can tell when I am moving away from it, when I am trying to force things in my own timing, when I am operating out of fear. And I can sense the deep sigh of relief when I move closer to absolute trust.

Where are you in this journey? Can you trust your life to an invisible force that cares only for your greatest good? Can you even believe in that? Sometimes I can. Other times, I simply hope.

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This is a very long post. I will end it with my favorite words of all time about trust, written by Brennan Manning in his book 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. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of the pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.

Find the gentle movement of God in your life. And then trust it.

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As a complete aside, I am offering a few writing classes that begin in February: Creative Writing for Kids, Fiction Writing, and Memoir Writing. If you’re interested and would like to learn more, you can check those out HERE.

4 Replies to “What I Discovered in an Old Christmas Video From 2009”

  1. I always find such comfort in your stories of this season of life. I feel like this often: Why do not have it all together like everyone else our age? What are we doing wrong? And yet, there are so many things we are doing right, if I really stop to think about it. This trust thing, though. Yeah, that’s hard. Right now we sort of feel like God pushed us out of an airplane without a parachute and He’s still asking us to trust Him. And those words from Brennan: “The reality of naked trust is the life of the pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future.” That fits us. Thanks so much for writing.

  2. …”trusting God is a conscious decision to move into a gentler movement of mercy.”
    I’m in a season of making such a move, so thank you for this offering, Shawn. It is a season where I need to “rest in reliance” on God in daily bread kinds of ways. May God meet us both with His mercy & grace.

  3. There’s something about your writing, even about the hard times you write about here, that is so gentle and comforting. I hate to miss a single post because they soothe me, even though I’m old enough to be your mother. Thank you for writing and being faithful to your calling. God bless.

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