Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's all about trust.

In mathematics, three points (in the same plane) determine a line.

In plotting my course in life, I often ask myself the question, "What is God trying to teach me these days?" Then I look for patterns, insights, or three things that line up.

Today I had a mini-epiphany: It's all about trust.

Over the last two days I've been re-reading a book called "The Gabriel Method," by Jon Gabriel. It's a book I first read last July, and it has helped transform my eating habits. I decided that I needed a bit of a refresher course. Jon suggests that one reason a person puts on extra weight is some primal response to freezing to death, starving to death, or being chased and eaten. As I read the book this time around, I asked myself, "What am I afraid of? What do I believe is threatening my personal safety?"

Jon suggests that fear, sadness, anger, longing, and resentment are all threats to safety. It was a good question, and I was able to list a few places where I have nagging fears, lingering sadness, unresolved anger and resentment, and a few unfulfilled longings. I was a bit surprised at some of the issues this simple self-questioning unearthed.

But I'm not one to shrink from issues, I lift them up to God. "What's at the heart of all these issues? Is there a pattern? Are they inter-related?"

If prayer is like talking into a phone, Bible reading is like listening at the ear-piece. I had recently done some reading in Colosians, but I was generally untouched. I contemplated starting in at Matthew, where the New Testament begins, but then I recalled a passage I'd been thinking about the night before.

When I wake up in the night, I do memory work. I mentally recite things I've memorized: 50 US states and their capitals, the provinces of Canada, the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 44 US presidents in order, the countries of Central and South America. Sometimes I recite the names of the 66 books of the Bible. Last night, in addition to a few of the above, I recited what I could of the 23rd Psalm. I only got about 1/2 of it right. It's been some years since I worked on it.

So I pulled out my Bible and read slowly through the 23rd Psalm. It turns out that one theme in the poem is trust. Not unlike US currency, the psalmist proclaims, "In God we trust."

Fear, sadness, anger, longing, and resentment can all be evidences of feeling threatened: of being unsafe.

"The Lord is my Shepherd..." "He leadeth me..." "He restoreth my soul..." "...Thou art with me..."

These words inspired me to trust in God. "Unless you are converted and become like a child, you shall in no wise enter the kingdom of God." A child trusts their Father. A child allows their Father to quiet their fears, calm their anger, resolve their longings and resentments. A child trusts their parent to keep them safe. Hmmm...

Recently at school I've had two sets of parents who were very concerned about how their children were being taken care of academically. One parent came to the realization that she needed to trust the teacher and the school. I've seen a transformation.

The second set of parents is consistently on guard, concerned, and watchful that their child is "protected." This set of parents doesn't trust the teacher nor the rest of the staff. It's not that we are incompetent or unreliable: they just don't trust us. And it shows.

It's the same school, the same teachers, and the same school year: in one situation, trust exists. In the other, it doesn't.

In life, I have a choice, just like these parents: I can live in the calm of informed trust, or in the storm of irrational mistrust.

Today I remembered one of my favorite verses: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5,6)

I'm not abandoning my ability to reason. In Isaiah God says, "Come, let us reason together." Anyone who reads my blog knows that I'm a thinker: an analyst. But ultimately, I'm not trusting in my ability to figure things out and come up with a plan. Instead, I'm going to "trust in the Lord." He will keep me safe. "...and he shall direct thy paths."

Or as the 23rd Psalm says, "I will fear no evil, for Thou are with me."

Today, I lined up three points (two sets of parents, and one set of personal fears). The common issue? Fear or trust. That's what God is trying to teach me these days. That was my mini-epiphany. And I choose trust.


  1. A Great post! I'm sure I could not recite any of those things from memory....I think I'll brush up on the 23rd Psalm :)

  2. I think it's wonderful how you look to the Scriptures for guidance and insight. That is a practice which would help me in some difficult situations too. Good luck with your journey that will begin after your mini-epiphany. Trust is the best way to go for all of us :) Something that I need to remember too. Have a great week Don.

  3. Don, it seems to me from my study of geometry long ago that two points can be used to determine a line, and three points can be used to determine a plane. Not that it affects your point. Your narrative works independent of geometry. I only mention this compulsively as being what my Aunt Jo called a "technical slob".
    I feel embarrassed to bring this up as you are a teacher and you should know. I am surprised that I feel as certain of this as I do. Possibly, as a genuine nerd, I think and hope that I am correct.
    I just think that accuracy is good.
    But I also think that the matter of safety is highly applicable. I often ask the question: "How can I be a "safe" person? For the sake of students and parents that is pretty important. It is part of the meaning of "truth": standing for something that can be trusted and relied upon.

  4. Here is my compulsiveness again. Three points in a plane can define lines that intersect and form an angle or a series of angles. That is the easiest "proof". To establish that three points in a plane actualy define a actual straight line (or a different kind of line, like an arc) requires a process of proofs.

  5. Especially "in times of need" I often turn to Psalm 23 and use it as my own prayer, for much the reasons that you name here.

  6. Hey, yeah I kinda miss the calender app too, I might bring it back, but it will have to be on the bottom so it seems kinda pointless...

    and my Project 365 will probably remain on Tumblr, which I want to keep separate from this blog anyways... so even if I move it to Blogger, it'll be on a seprate blog either way, but I'm kinda lazy right now so things will remain as is til further notice...

    Hope the weather isnt to crazy over at Cali, it's freeeeeeezing in florida!

  7. Oh, and as for my masters program, I'm taking a semester off, I feel like I deserve it after 17 consecutive years of school

  8. Lately I've been amazed at how well the Bible speaks to every problem, concern, and issue that arises in one's life.

    Funny story - I used to wonder about that 'like a child' verse, and worry that maybe I wouldn't make the cut because acting like a child is waaaaay behind me. But now that you've shed some light on what it really means, I can see that it's just a matter of trust. I can do that. :)

  9. The 23rd psalm is one of my favorites, Don. Many times it has sustained me as I walk through the valley of the shadow...

  10. Thanks to all who posted comments. I'm a bit slow... but here's my feedback to your feedback:

    @Kerri: Yeah, that 23rd Psalm is a real gem. It continues to speak to the heart centuries after it was penned. It's worth brushing up on.

    @Dennis: You are right. Two points determine a line. I almost rewrote the beginning after your comment, but then got busy with the week. Perhaps a better start would be: "When graphing a linear equation, I always solve for three points. Two points determine a line, but that third point confirms that I've got the right line." (Two great points to graph are the y-intercept and the x-intercept, then any other point will do.)

    But I decided to leave my mistrakes alone. Kind of like the author of East of Eden. His book is based on the fact that we're all descendants of Cain, since he killed Abel. (But he must not have checked it out... and missed Seth.) But I digress.

    @Dawn: That 23rd Psalm is a great comfort. Always has been. Always will be. I think it's because it points us to God, the Good Shepherd. We need comfort and consolation. We need to believe that God is good.

    @Its-all-good: I do like the new look on your blog. I'm enjoying your project 365 also. Leaving comments on 365 is a bit more work, but that just means I enjoy it, but you don't know it. ;-) Enjoy that year off. 17 years of school in a row deserves a break. And... not being in school, lets you do a lot of independent study. So let's see if you've become a life-long learner! (I can tell you are.) PS: The weather here has been good for the past two weeks. We're mid-70s. Shhh... I don't want to rub it in for all our readers who are in the dead of a very cold winter. (So Cal has its perks, maybe more than its fair share.)

    @Saphron: I'm so glad that my post made the "unless you are converted and become like a child" verse more accessible. I like how you ended your comment: "I can do that." That's how trust is: so easy a caveman... I mean... a child can do it.

    @Deedee: Thanks for commenting. I'm glad to see you coming out of the valley of being Cut Adrift. Scriptures like the 23rd Psalm are used to sustain us: "Thy rod and thy staff comfort me." Comfort that sustains: keeps us walking through.

  11. @September: The Bible can be a source of comfort, insight, guidance, patience, and humor. One of the names of God is "I am becoming all my people need." As the Author... his writings reflect who he is: he is who we need... right now.