Trusting After Hurt
My daughter is in the mimicking phase. When Daniel Tiger brushes his teeth, Risa has to go brush her teeth. I ask her to say "giraffe," she smiles and shouts, "raff!" I made the mistake, one time, of pulling that thing where you need to go and your kid refuses to come, so you pretend you're gonna leave without them. She now does this to us all the time. She wants to go to Nana's house, but it's almost time for bed. She wants to go to the splash pad, but the water turns off at six. She wants to go to the lake, but it's naptime.
"OKAYBYE!" And she jumps up, runs out of the living room, and waits in the dining room to see if we're coming.
Yesterday, we actually did go to the lake. This was only her second or third time at this lake, and it turned out to be the first time she would try to swim.
She nailed it, by the way.
We walked out into the deeper water, that weird sort of crab walk you do when you could stand up at this depth but you want to keep your shoulders submerged. Risa was on my hip, and Carly bobbed next to us as we went out. After a while of splashing and jumping and general water shenanigans, we decided to try swimming.
As I held the little one, Carly demonstrated proper paddling technique, and then swam about three feet away. I held one hand on Risa's belly, and she kicked and paddled her way over to her mom. It was amazing! Like she was born to do it. We were proud. She was proud. The fish were proud. We took our corporate accomplishment and went home.
Risa trusts me implicitly. She knew that I wouldn't take my hand off of her, wouldn't let her drop uncontrolled in the water, wouldn't let her be unsafe. But she still had to choose to paddle out. I didn't take both hands and glide her across the water to her mom - she got there on her own strength. She kicked and paddled herself. And in this moment, she reminded me of that so-often forgotten component of trust building: the leap of faith.
Most people, I think, would say that trust is primarily built through demonstrations of trustworthiness - and they'd be absolutely right. Luke 16:10a says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much." For two years, I have changed Risa's diaper faithfully, fed her faithfully, killed bugs that freaked her out, kissed her booboos. I've been home at night to tuck her in and still there in the morning to get her milk and snuggle her on the couch. I've been faithful to her in little things, and so, in a moment where my lack of faithfulness could have caused her to panic, to never go into the water again, maybe even to drown - she had no hesitation. She charged out into the water like she was born in it, knowing that I was keeping her safe.
But what if I hadn't been so faithful? What if it was only recently that I was demonstrating trustworthiness to her? What if I had lived a life of selfishness and dishonesty - and then turned over a new leaf? Would should be so quick to trust me? Probably not. And she'd be right to be wary of my word and my promises. Luke 16:10b adds to the start of that verse, "Whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."
Scripture warns us to be careful of habitually dishonest people. But in Scripture, we also find the hope of change. 2 Corinthians 4 says "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." And this is true, hard as it may be to believe at times, not only of us, but also of those who have hurt us that also profess Christ and Him crucified. The mercy of our Savior can cause incredible change in the most hurtful of people, transforming them more and more into His likeness. As He does, they show themselves trustworthy in the little things.
But eventually, we have to choose a leap of faith. It's a requirement for trust building. Our pain can make us afraid - it can convince us that no matter what, a person will never be safe for us again, even if everything about their behavior backs up the words they use that indicate trustworthiness. Our pain can make us hard-hearted, making us believe that no amount of trustworthy action warrants forgiveness.
I need to make a clarifying statement at this point, lest my passion for this particular topic run away with me and make my meaning unclear. Some people truly are unsafe. I'm not suggesting that we should choose to trust again and be in intimate, vulnerable relationships with people who continue to demonstrate that they are unsafe. And even those who have hurt us badly and are remorseful, repentant, and who make attempts to reconcile must earn trust back. That is certainly true, and we all do well to remember it.
But as trust is earned, it should be paid in the appropriate increments. And just like banks make loans based on the appropriate collateral, so, too, should we make leaps of faith based on trust collateral. It's a way of saying, "This is a big thing I'm trusting you with, but, based on what I've seen up to this moment, I believe you're good for it."
Rebuilding trust in a relationship takes two people, working together. Demonstrating trustworthiness and repaying that demonstration with trust. Luke 16 says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much," but the only way to demonstrate that is to actually trust them with much. Or even more, just a little more. Leaps of faith don't have to be Grand Canyon-sized. Just bigger than a step.
It is a terrifying, vulnerable, huge thing to trust again the people who have hurt us. But we have to choose it. There's nothing they could ever do, no gesture they could make or promise they can follow through on it, that will force our hands. They cannot rend trust out of us against our will. We have to give it. We have to choose it. My prayer for us all is that, as we journey in relationship with people who can and do hurt us, we remember that we have a part to play in rebuilding broken trust, and that we ask God for the courage to play it.