August 29th, 2013

Just shy of my sixty-third birthday, I began coming to grips with a personal flaw that I can no longer ignore or pretend is not there. Frankly, it was a private sin, and one about which I have never felt the need to make a public confession. Nevertheless, I came to the conclusion that such an admission would do me good and that, even more, it might be helpful to those who share the same weakness.

It’s difficult for me to type these words, but the truth I must face was that I have a profound distrust of God. Perhaps more accurately it was a profound lack of trust in God, which may be a sin that is one shade less egregious. As a pastor who has preached for forty years about the importance of trusting God, however, I realize the difference was relatively minor. Although I have been vaguely aware of this absence of trust all of my life, its consequences were becoming ever more apparent to me as I struggled with the everyday challenges of life.

My epiphany came because of concerns for my grandsons. One afternoon, while plotting all of the many things I needed to do to make sure that my two grandsons would be safe, raised in a happy home with good moral standards, receive better-than-average educations, and have a head start in life, it occurred to me that I had limited power to ensure any of those become reality. I heard God speaking to me—a phrase I rarely use because I think it is so often abused by preachers—in a distinctly powerful way. God said, quite simply, “You need to trust some of this to me.”

And thus began the argument.

I started off by reminding God of all the children I have buried during my ministry, every one an innocent victim of some awful catastrophe. “Do you really expect me, of all people, to trust my grandsons to you?” I then proceeded to charge God with negligence over the number of children who are raised in homes that provide inadequate emotional support, in communities and schools with inferior educational opportunities, and in societies that seem impervious to the needs of the next generation. “In all honesty, God, when it comes to my grandsons, I think I can trust myself to get things done better and faster than you.”

God was silent. For a long time. At first, sensing that perhaps I had won the debate, I felt moderately triumphant. After a while, however, as God remained silent, I became overwhelmed by the recognition of my utter impotence. Not that I am unable to love my grandchildren, provide money for their education, or help them in many other ways that are appropriate and useful. But I faced the reality of my total powerlessness when it comes to achieving the ultimate goal for those whom I love: a safe life with a maximum of love and a minimum of fear, a life well-lived and long, and a life with more joy than grief; more laughter than tears.

The silence was deafening, the epiphany torturous. Confronted with this sin, which I realized had dogged me all my life, I waited for God’s next word. It did not come. Or at least it did not come directly, but only as an echo of a statement God had already made: “You need to trust some of this to me.”

And thus ended the argument.

excerpt from: The Long View: Reflections on Life, God, and Nature by Donald W. Underwood. Copyright©2013 by Abingdon Press. Used with Permission. This book publishes in September.

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