Trust and the Internal Well
by Tim Mooney
Without water, in the wilderness, the Hebrew people ask, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Will God provide? Moses seeks God. He is told to strike the rock with his staff. In the dry desert, water flows.
In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul speaks of being “justified by faith”. And he points to Abraham and Sarah as examples of this faith. Abraham is 100, Sarah is 90. God says Sarah will conceive. Both laugh, harder than they’ve ever laughed. Preposterous! But God insists. Sarah will give birth, and they will name him “Isaac”, which means, “he laughs”. Every time they called Isaac’s name, they are reminded of God’s provision. In his letter, Paul emphasizes their faith in God to pull off the preposterous. What seems disastrous, isn’t; what is barren, gives birth; our sin and ungodliness, is forgiven. When Paul speaks of being justified, he indicates that through faith we are established, grounded, rooted, connected, in right-relationship, in alignment.
At the well, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink. She’s there, in the heat of the day, to avoid being shamed by the other women who gathered water in the cool of the morning. She’s had five husbands, and the man she’s with is not her husband. Jesus offers her “living water”, “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” She wants this water, so she won’t have to come to the well every day. She is thirsty, but not for water. She is thirsty for love, hope, meaning. She speaks of the coming Messiah. Jesus responds, literally, with the words “I Am”, coma, “the one speaking to you.” Translators put it this way: “I am he, the one speaking to you.” But when he says, “I Am”, it points to what Moses heard at the burning bush. The great “I Am”, the Ground of Being, God, is the “spring of water gushing up to eternal life”. It is available to all, it is in us at the deepest level. The Christ within. After her encounter with Jesus, the woman runs off to the city to tell people of his wisdom, and she is not ashamed to be seen. She has already begun to trust deeply in the well within her.
“Glenn” was seeing me for spiritual direction. One day, he said, My wounds, my struggles, are like an ominous, foreboding hole in the ground. If I get too close, I’ll fall in and never get out. I invited him into a prayer of imagination, to let God be with him any way God wanted to show up, and to begin by imagining the hole, but at a safe distance, and just slowly walk around it. He prayed silently for 10 minutes. He then said, I walked around the hole, and heard the voices in it, but dared not get any closer. I was scared. Suddenly, everything changed. I was standing beside a brick well, with a bucket attached to a rope. Someone was standing next to me. I turned, and it was Jesus, with his ear bent toward the well. He was listening to my stories. And I realized, I need not fear anymore, my past, my stories, painful though they are. There is something deep inside me, that will quench my thirst.
Paul says we are justified by faith. But faith is a tricky word. It’s not just mental assent that something is true. A better word is trust; we are justified by trust. But even trust is misleading. The first five definitions of trust in my dictionary treat it as a noun. But at it’s root, trust, is a verb. It is something we do. It’s not something we think, it’s something we practice.
We are so doubtful, worried, and anxious that we can never truly “sit” in our lives. And because we can’t truly sit, we are exhausted. Without trust, we wear ourselves out.
When I served as the Interim Pastor at Brighton Presbyterian Church I was asked to speak to a local Scout troop about faith in God. The scouts were seated in folding chairs in front of me. You could tell, by the way they slouched in their chairs, that they were skeptical: God – boring! I asked the scouts, “What does faith mean?” Several boys said, “Trust”. I asked them what “Trust” meant, and they said “faith, faith in God.” “What’s faith?” “Trust!” “What’s Trust?” “Faith”. This is going nowhere! And then, unplanned, an idea came to me. I said to them, “All of you are deeply trusting in something this very second. Do you know what it is?” Blank stares. Then one scout shot his hand in the air and said cautiously, “Our chairs?” Blank stares turned into light bulbs! The Scouts suddenly recognized what trust felt like in their bodies. They experienced deep trust! Another idea came! What it would look like to not trust your chairs? I was treated to the most comical display of teetering, nerve-racking, never-comfortable anxiety – a powerful metaphor for the way we often experience our lives. We are so doubtful, worried, and anxious that we can never truly “sit” in our lives. And because we can’t truly sit, we are exhausted. Without trust, we wear ourselves out.
We are in a frightful time. For the world, the Coronavirus and its effect on our health, physically and financially; for our country and beyond, a consequential Presidential Election; and closer to home, a congregational meeting to vote on going forward on a million dollar loan to improve our facilities, so we might reach out more effectively to the community around us. “Is the Lord among us or not?” Always. Living water, a spring of water gushing up in eternal life, rises up in us. So let us trust, without falling into fear and panic, or gullibly whistling in the dark. We take precautions. We bow instead of shake hands, keep a 3-foot distance, use hand sanitizer, wash our hands often, stay home and watch worship live stream on Facebook. But we do not hoard toilet paper, food, or face masks. The Guidance Team and the Finance Committee vetted the loan, recommended it to Session, and Session unanimously endorsed going forward with the loan.
Friday early morn, I sat in meditation, and watched my anxious mind race. I was not sitting in the chair of life, I was not trusting. I said to myself, “Be here now,” sort of like the woman at the well, when she said to Jesus, “Give me this living water.” And then I heard something different. “I am here now,” meaning myself. And then it went deeper. “I AM”, capital A, capital M, “here,” “now”. I AM is so deeply with us, for us, in us. As deeply as you trust the pew, the chair, or couch you sit in, trust in God, because “I AM, here, now.”
Song: I AM, Here, Now.
When I am disheveled, standing by the left turn line,
With the words, “Can You Help?”, written on my cardboard sign.
When my skins an odd color, I’m of a different race,
And you feel uncomfortable, when you look into my face.
Chorus: I AM, here, now; I AM, here, now.
From the beginning, to the end; I AM, here, now.
When you visit me in prison, give me a shirt for my back,
Pay for my rent, and don’t expect to be paid back.
When you know the truth, and forgive me nonetheless,
Walk humbly with your God, love kindness and do justice.
When you pass through the waters, walk through the flames,
When it all comes undone, and there’s nothing but pain.
Amidst the confusion, in the darkest of nights,
When the way’s been lost, and you’re full of fright.