My daughter asked me to come along with her for her music lessons, about ten miles away on the interstate. I always love to spend time with her. Emily’s been driving a couple years, has driven several thousand miles already, and is a very good driver with good judgment. So I resist the very parental urge to feel anxious when she’s driving.
One of my own parents--I won’t say which--affirmed me for being a bright kid, which was wonderful, but never seem to realize that I needed to learn things through parental instruction, practice and experience. So this parent overreacted whenever I made, for instance, mistakes while learning to drive. Aargh! This double message made me very anxious and self-doubting. Patience and trust would’ve helped me tremendously.
One of Walter Brueggemann’s older books is In Man We Trust: The Neglected Side of Biblical Faith (John Knox Press, 1972). Interestingly, he uses commentary about King David to affirm that God trusts us and allows us to live as mature people. Brueggemann argues that significant traditions of Christian theology emphasize human brokenness, spiritual impotence, and need. After all, that is why we need the atonement. Brueggemann himself concludes with uneasiness about this interpretation, which one might say is close to Semi-Pelagian. But in the wisdom traditions about David, Brueggemann finds a life-affirming model of human beings as whole people trusted by God and called to maturity and life-creation.
The author may have changed some of his thoughts by now; I haven’t delved into his large body of work to see. But the idea of God’s trust in us is interesting. We rightly affirm that God guides our steps and saves us from terrible situations, the worst of which of course is our sin and eventual death. We also affirm that God doesn’t negate our free will but mysteriously works within our freedom to accomplish his purposes. But would we proudly say, “God trusts me!” the same way we’d say “God has forgiven me” and “God has saved me”?
Of course we‘d be happy about God‘s trust when we are called to some task which we undertake humbly, reliant upon the Spirit‘s help. But still, “God trusts me” just doesn’t sound right! I suppose it’s because, when we’re honest and confess to God, we know in our hearts and minds that we are not fully trustworthy. Our best is never good enough, and that’s why the forgiveness, freedom and power of Christ are so wonderful.
And yet …we feel empowered by other people (like our parents) when we are trusted. What do you think?