But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on [your] way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.
Anyone who has taken an intro theater class has had to perform the classic trust exercise. We stand rigid and fall backward, trusting our partner to catch us. If our partner is bigger than us, we’re pretty confident in falling backward onto them. If our partner is about the same size as us, we’re still pretty confident. It’s when our partner is smaller than us that we begin to worry. The greater the disparity between us and our partner, the greater our misgivings about falling back and trusting them to catch us. My experience in intro theater was one of great disparity. I am just over the six foot marker and obliterate the 200 pound mark on my way past. My partner in the trust exercise was not much bigger than my wife — somewhere in the neighborhood of five feet and just a whisper over 100 pounds. Yet, somehow, I was able to trust that partner to catch me and she (poor thing) was able to trust me not to crush her. This is a very ready-to-hand example of what trust looks like. And this example is the sort of thing that leaves me ready to crawl into a hole for shame.
The shame is due to one thing and one thing only: I do not trust God as much as I should. He is my partner in the trust exercise of life. I am going to fall — because life is a bully and will knock me down sometimes and because I fail to obey and end up walking paths that crumble underneath my feet and, well, for lots of other reasons — and I should be trusting God to catch me. But I’m not. Not at all the time. I keep looking for the safety net or trying to find some way to cushion my fall and it just makes things worse. Israel’s trust exercise came after God had shown them a bit of what He could do: ten plagues in Egypt, parting the Red Sea, pillar of cloud/fire leading them around, Pharaoh’s entire army wiped out in the sea, bread that came down from Heaven while they slept, water coming out of rocks. Israel had a fair notion of the power at play and yet, when they reached the borders of Canaan, they freak out and fail to trust God and end up wandering around in the wilderness until all the non-trusters are gone and a group who will trust has come of age.
The application for this is actually right on the surface. I need to trust God more. My lack of trust, in my eyes, reveals something about how strong or feeble I perceive God to be. In one area, I perceive God to be mighty, because I trust Him in that. In another, I obviously perceive Him to be weak, because I do not trust Him. Therein lies the shame, for me. Either God is ALL mighty or He is not mighty at all. And my lack of trust reveals that I do not — in my bones — believe Him to be almighty. If I did, then I would trust Him. Who doesn’t trust a partner that is bigger and stronger than themselves? This morning, I feel as though I’ve been addressed in the same tone as more than one prophet and disciple: “Is the Lord’s arm weak that He cannot do what concerns you?” Minus column: I don’t trust the way I should. Plus column (and it’s a very small comfort): I have lots of august company. I must trust God.