February 12, 2017
Letters Home (from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
Recently I drove a section of Highway 101. This piece of the highway has been carved out of the vertical cliffs of the Oregon coast. The landward side of the road is a chiseled rock wall. The Pacific side is a sheer drop to the rocks and surf several hundred feet below. The only safety barrier is a stone wall that was built during the Great Depression by the hands of workers employed by Oregon State and the Federal Public Works Administration. Their skill still provides a measure of safety after all these years.
I have driven or ridden this stretch of highway since before my earliest memories. My first recollection of this road is driving south with my Dad in our family car. I think it was a 1953 Ford. To my young eyes our car was coming dangerously close to the precipice. My Dad must have noticed my increasing anxiety and said something like this; “Don’t you know that I love you? I will do nothing that puts you in danger. Trust me.” I would like to say that from that moment on I was able to relax. But not so. I remember it took me quite a while to balance the fearful sight just outside the window of our car with my Dad’s commitment to protect me.
I have reflected on this drive and my father’s words for the last six decades. What I find to be as true today as it was then is that when we know we are loved in a way that we can trust, all kinds of possibilities open up for us. It is not that we become more capable, or more powerful. Rather, because of that trust we know the other’s capabilities have been added to our own. As my children might say, the other “has our back.” From that moment on we feel emboldened to reach beyond what we believed were our own limits and we discover new possibilities.
Doubt and trust seem to be inextricably related. Like that rock safety wall on Highway 101, our parents, spouses, and friends certainly intend the best for us, but they do have their limits. All of us are limited by our humanity. Discovering that there are limits to the abilities of those we put our trust in can give birth to a doubt that may become overpowering. At these times our need to attach ourselves to the strength and wisdom of another whose strength can truly bear the burden of our trust becomes obvious.
As I write these words I am well aware that you know where all of this is leading. As companions in following the Lord Jesus we have all heard this before. But as our busy lives go on we often lose sight of even the most central things and need to be reminded now and again. This is one reason I love the treasury of Collects we pray each Sunday. They recall our attention to central truths that we might have otherwise overlooked.
In this week’s prayer we acknowledge that we have placed our ultimate trust in the God of all Creation. In the gift of His grace, our Heavenly Father has said to all something like what my earthly father said me, “Don’t you know that I love you? I will do nothing that puts you in danger. Trust me.” Even though things may look very dangerous out our window on the world, we have hitched our lives to the star of God’s promises. This is what we are learning to trust.
This Sunday’s prayer may be one worthy of memorizing. When we come to those moments when our lives seem frozen, when we feel beyond our own abilities, praying this prayer would remind us that we have pledged our trust in God’s ever present power and grace. That reminder has been enough to help countless of our companions in faith to get going again and apply themselves to what God had put before them. May it be so for us.
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 216)