“I need a brave volunteer,” declared the speaker at the front of the conference room.
Immediately, my ten-year-old hand shot into the air.
I’d been to kids’ programs like this before. Some dude with a microphone asks for a ‘strong’ or ‘brave’ little helper to come forward and perform a task, which makes the speaker feel engaging and grants the ‘brave one’ something to do besides sit and listen. Typically, the task entails no more strength or courage than is required to hold a small glass of water. Sign me up.
“You!” The speaker pointed my way.
Confidence sparking in my wide little eyeballs, I marched to the front.
“So,” the towering giant of a speaker gazed down at me, “here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to stand on my shoulders—”
“And then,” he motioned to a cluster of t-shirted strangers standing nearby, “you’re going to fall backwards into the interlinked arms of these guys.”
You’re kidding. But a quick search of the giant’s eyes proved he wasn’t.
I don’t recall exactly what unfolded next. All I remember is that I somehow ended up standing with my trembling sneakers planted on this bizarre guy’s shoulders, awaiting my death fall—a drop greater than my own height—backwards into the arms of a bunch of random strangers I couldn’t even see. –And all this in front of a roomful of other kids!
Obviously, this was turning into a terrible day.
“Keep you’re knees locked, hips straight, arms folded across your chest…” the guy instructed. As if I could hear him above the final beats of my own deafening heart.
Deeming my possible demise a preferable alternative to standing atop this human being forever, I crossed my arms, looked up, and watched the ceiling drop away from view. I didn’t keep my form straight. And I’m pretty sure the strangers partially dropped me. But the great news is, I survived.
Fast forward to last September, when I faced another wild trust fall. I had a vague sense that it would be a good idea to circumnavigate the planet alone while documenting Christian students’ experiences in different secular universities, but I didn’t know how to do any of that. All I knew was that God had probably called me to missions, student ministry and writing, and that this would be a way to combine all three.
So, naturally, I booked a one-way flight to Australia. Knowing God, at least this would be a far safer trust fall than flying backwards off a stranger’s shoulders.
Not that I knew anybody in Australia—or in most of the other places I might want to go. I’d never traveled alone further than my next province, knew nothing about planning an expedition, and had no experience with long-term backpacking. But it seemed like the right thing to do.
It also seemed totally absurd.
NOBODY runs off and wanders the world with no plan except to interview strangers because it might make a nice blog series. –At least, nobody without flip flops, kale juice and dreadlocks.
This would be new territory—a chance to boldly go where no hippie had gone before, just me and God and a backpack. What could be better, right?! Still, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t shake one clear conclusion: What I’m doing is nuts.
I thought this the night before I left Canada. I thought it the morning I walked down the long jetway to board my first one-way flight. And certainly, I thought it all those times when my knack for calamity landed me lost, stranded, soaked, homeless, covered in fish scales, missing valuables or on the wrong continent. This. Is. Nuts.
Eventually, after five months of trust fall-style traveling, I came to stay with a friend of a contact of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of my mom’s, in Holland. There, I received an email from a local pastor.
“You are doing right,” his letter encouraged, proceeding to tell me that my mission was “not a crazy thing to be doing.”
For an instant, the revelation hit me almost like disappointment. But then, I started thinking about it.
God had called me to this trust fall. With every problem, every predicament, and every prayer, He’d repeatedly proved Himself to be faithful. He’d brought me into contact with exactly the right people in exactly the right places, had guided my steps, and had provided everything I needed at every turn. He’d let me taste the adventure of living by faith.
Nothing in the Bible suggests that living by faith–stepping off the shore of “I know what I’m doing” and plunging into the waves where Christ stands, beckoning–is unusual. Paul didn’t chronicle the early saints’ greatest exploits in Hebrews 11 and then write, “Living by faith worked well for these guys, but don’t try it yourself or you might get hurt.” Neither did Jesus tell His disciples in Matthew 6, “You fellows here in the 1st century definitely need to pursue God’s kingdom and righteousness as your top priority, because your Heavenly Father knows how to meet your physical needs. But enjoy it while it lasts, as this promise won’t apply to anyone except the most hyper-spiritual missionaries in the future.” No, living by faith is par for the Christian course.
So why do we, as Christ-followers, so often talk about “living by faith” as if it’s abnormal, radical, or downright bonkers? What kind of message does that communicate to ourselves, to our non-believing friends, and to God?
Picture this: your best friend in the world, whom you’ve known, loved and shared life with for years, walks up to you one day, looks deep into your eyes, and declares, “I think it would be crazy for me to trust you.”
But isn’t that what we do to God when we behave like responding to His commands, answering His call, and living by faith is “crazy?” No wonder the Bible packs some strong words against worrying. According to Scripture, in fact, trusting in anything besides God is what’s really crazy.
Consider what God has to say about staking our hopes in other fallible, finite humans:
- This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:5, NIV.)
- Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord…the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. (Isaiah 31:1-3a, NIV.)
- It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:9, NIV.)
Well then. If we shouldn’t trust others, maybe we should simply trust ourselves. That’s the take-home advice of practically every sappy movie ever: “Follow your heart.” Trust your gut. Or for that matter, your spleen. Just pick an internal organ and let it be your guide. But according to God’s word…
- Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. (Proverbs 28:26, NIV.)
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5, NIV).
- The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:0, NKJV.)
Hmm. How about trusting in finances?
- Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. (Proverbs 11:28, NIV.)
- The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at you, saying, “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!” (Psalm 52:6-7, NIV.)
- Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17, NIV.)
Clearly, Scripture is loaded with insights about what kind of trust falls are really crazy. Common sense alone suggests that it’s infinitely safer to lean on God’s unlimited, infallible, everlasting arms than on anything else. Earthly, human safety nets just don’t cut it. They don’t cut it spiritually, and–as I learned in a rather literal sense as a ten-year-old–they don’t even necessarily cut it physically.
Ironically, I can’t even remember that speaker’s point in having me attempt such a dramatic trust fall. Whatever his message, it’s long forgotten now. But the trust fall God walked me through? That’s a lesson I hope will stay with me forever:
Living by faith is not crazy.
In fact, trusting God is the sanest thing we can do.