Who do you trust? In his book, Soul Cravings, Erwin McManus tells an exceptional story about his two-year-old son getting caught crawling up the stairs. During one of his escapades, the father caught his son midway up the stairs and firmly told him to get down. In a normal two-year-old manner, the child exclaimed, “Daddy, carry me.” This interaction continued for a while and McManus remarks, “Then it happened. I never would have expected it. It took me entirely by surprise. He jumped.” McManus reached out his hands and caught his son.
McManus goes on to reflect that “truth is more than the gathering of information.” For his son, McManus was just Daddy. He further states that his son had more confidence in him as Daddy than himself, which is why he chose to jump rather than climb down. “If you can come to trust God, you might find yourself jumping right into his arms.”
We often get very confident in our ability to gather information. For many, the more information that is known determines the amount of power that is held. Is our ultimate trust in what we know or in something bigger? The first people in today’s reading from Genesis based a major decision in their lives on information that, in the end, led them to sin. In a way, the serpent gave them “information” that sounded more intriguing than God’s. And, following their own plan and what they were able to acquire, they did exactly the opposite of what God requested and died to their innocence.
Having information is important. Equally important is the continual stimulation of our minds with current thought processes, world affairs, trends, and developments. All of these things are necessary and beneficial to becoming our best selves. At the end of the day, however, they do not see us through and leads us to right decision making. Much of the information we acquire is relative and changeable. The thoughts of one authority today can quickly be replaced by another tomorrow. Think about how your views of the world have changed over the last twenty years! What we thought then, in many ways, is not what we think now!
There is something nonnegotiable about being human. This is ultimately the lesson of the garden and the lesson of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. If we seek to define ourselves solely by the trends of the day and trust exclusively in them, then we open ourselves to temptations and impulses that can easily lead us to our spiritual, emotional, and even physical death.
Once again, the devil tried to use information to lure Jesus into submission. For Jesus, it is not about information. All that the devil had to say, at first glance, appears to offer a grand solution to many of the things that concern humanity: hunger/independence, idolatry/obedience, and power. Just like winning the lottery, gaining one or more of these worldly riches can appear to be a grand way for finding our way to “easy street.” But, in the end, they are empty. Regardless of what anyone or any amount of information can pretend to offer us, in the end two big questions remain: who am I and who can I trust?
Our life journeys often bring us to a place where no amount of information or promises really matter. All of the information we can acquire about grieving or loss and all of the promises people can make (no matter how loving and well-intended) can’t really connect with the ache that we feel at the actual time of our mourning. All of the systems, rules, and educational protocols that are in place pointing to the wrongness of bullying are useless when I see my name and reputation repeatedly tarnished on Facebook and other social media. Information is important but it doesn’t replace the lived character of what it means to be human, what it means to be who you are.
Adam and Eve lost their sense of self and Jesus gained it. It is really that simple. Lent is ultimately about learning how to trust in the God who lovingly made us and embracing the nonnegotiables of what it means to be God’s children. Regardless of what each generation can discover, learn, and communicate, we are dependent upon our Creator; we need to be obedient to his living, creative voice, and become empowered not by earthly things but by the matters of the heart.
From the time of our creation, we have wrestled with the question of whether we are God. There is a huge part of us that wants to be God. That is precisely what this season of humility helps us confront and see: we are not God. Nothing around us can satisfy our deepest hungers; our souls crave their source and center and this is where sin enters. There is great wisdom to be found in taking a chunk of time and reflecting on how we have duped ourselves! We buy into the wrong thinking, ideologies, and temptations every day! We stumble over our weakness, the innocence that we lost, and our need to be placated and pampered. We like our cozy, safe, insulated, unchallenged, controlling little lives and resist being thrown out of our comfort zones. Thank God for his mercy!
“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned,” pleads our responsorial psalm for the day. God is always waiting and is ever patient. It is amazing how, without judgment or any form of condemnation, he continues to watch us bump up against walls, fall victim to temptation, eat the wrong fruit, and listen to the wrong voices. He waits. I guess that’s what unconditional, pure love does, as silly as it sounds. God waits.
Rev. Mark S. Suslenko
Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God to whom you belong will in his love enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in his arms.
Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations.
—Prayer for Complete Trust in God, St. Francis de Sales.