by The Rev. Collette Broady Grund
I am a planner. I love making lists and color-coding my calendar. Few things make me happier than imagining in my head how a dinner party or a church event is going to go, then making all the necessary preparations to ensure things go according to my vision. And I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I played school, but not with dolls and stuffed animals sitting in a classroom. I played at making class lists, lesson plans, and report cards. I was probably the only person in my 10th grade class who had a full-size day planner, always within arm’s reach.
Life according to plans
Oftentimes, this tendency is a good thing. Planning is a good skill for a pastor to have, especially for big-deal worship services like Christmas Eve and Easter morning. You cannot be a parent managing a custody schedule without an organized calendar. And it’s so rewarding when things go according to plan, when all my hard work and forethought pays off, when everything comes together just as I intended!
The problem is, of course, that things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes my plans are blown to smithereens by illness or weather. Sometimes other people who are part of the plan choose not to do as I’d like, or even as they originally agreed to do.
And when that happens, I know I’m supposed to “let go and let God,” to give over my vision and trust that God is guiding this whole messy universe, my life included, toward something good. But holy cats, that’s hard. It might be the hardest thing about being a follower of God: trusting in the ultimate goodness of God in the midst of a life that is uncertain at best and disastrously cruel at worst.
I’m not going to tell you I’m good at it. But what I will say is that I’m better than I used to be, and I’ll tell you how I got better: by faking it.
Fake it until you make it
C.S. Lewis once famously said, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” The same could be said about trusting God, I think. Every time a situation in my life would arise which produced anxiety or fear, instead of asking whether I trusted God to take care of it or not, I’d take a deep breath and say aloud “I trust you, Jesus.”
I didn’t always mean it. Sometimes my voice would raise at the end of the sentence, accidentally punctuating it as a question. Sometimes the words would catch in my throat like a sob. But I’d say those words however I could, and then I’d try to let go of that particular anxiety for that particular moment. It became my daily morning ritual, done over breakfast when my son was with his dad or over my second cup of coffee at the office after dropping him at daycare. I’d sit in silence and let the uncertainties of that day or week bubble up, then confidently (or flat-out lying), I’d tell Jesus I trusted him to deal with them.
And over time, and the re-reading of journals and prayer lists, I came to see that God was indeed dealing with those things, turning my uncertainty into discerned vision, my foiled plans into new creations exceeding my imagination. Difficult situations at work resolved with solutions proposed by others. The burden of contentious relationships was lifted as I surrendered that which had never been in my control. Prayers I had been offering for years found answers better than I had dared to hope. Which, of course, makes it easier to trust God with those anxieties that are still awaiting resolution. As it does in any relationship, trust in God gets easier the more you take the risk and your partner proves worthy.
I discovered that God is good enough to turn my fake trust genuine.
Collette Broady Grund is a pastor and coach, a mom and stepmom, a widow and a writer. She lives in Janesville, Wis., where she pastors Faith Lutheran Church. She has a passion for grief work, and has written a resource for small groups and individuals called The Grief Lectionary. The resource, her writing, and information about grief coaching is available at www.collettebroadygrund.com
Adapted from “Faking trust” which first appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cafe, Boldcafe.org, Women of the ELCA’s online publication.