Tag Archives: Trust

Rachel Held Evans: On Origami and Trust

The news concerning the death of Rachel Held Evans this past weekend has been hard to swallow.   She leaves behind a loving husband, 2 young children, and a family innumerable who have been blessed, encouraged, and loved through her speaking and writing ministry.   She will be greatly missed.

I first met Rachel back in 2010 when were were both actively blogging about faith and the church.  She graciously shared some of my writings on her blog (which was far more popular than mine ) and we met at a few conferences.  When I was moving from seminary back to Tennessee in 2011 we kicked the idea around of starting a church that would minister to the outcasts and misfits – those who had lost faith in the church but hoped God hadn’t lost faith in them.   Sadly, that never transpired.

Over the years we drifted apart but I continued to read her work.   While we didn’t always land in the same place, I always admired her gift with words and her ability to articulate the questions of faith that all of us have or have had and she did so humbly and honestly.   Never did I doubt that she was and is deeply in love with Jesus and her neighbors.   Today, I don’t doubt that that love is only magnified and more truly known.

I’ve been moved by the many tributes written these past few days.   But I’ve also been appalled by comments and posts from many of her detractors. I won’t reference them here as I don’t want to give them life, but they reveal the dark underbelly of the Church at which Rachel devoted much of her time aiming her prophetic voice, and the remainder of her time creating places of grace and healing for it’s refugees.   She wanted them, and us, to know that the church imperfectly reflects the goodness of our Father and that we can trust Jesus to make all things new.

I fell prey to something these last two days, be it my hero complex or simply boredom, to defend Rachel to some of her detractors.   In the midst of this I realized that this is not something Rachel would have done herself, nor expect any of us to do.  Rather, she would likely pray for them, and instruct me to do the same (or teach me how to turn their hate mail into origami).

But it did get me thinking about trust.  When the judgments of those self-avowed defenders of pure religion are stacked up against the grace-filled, humble words of Rachel and her many friends, a blinding, stark contrast is on full display.  The former is only able to give lip service to trust, whereas the latter embodies it in word and deed.  They do this, I think, because they trust not the frame of their religion but the One who frames them in perfect light to the Father.

This came to me as I was singing this weekend the song, “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.”   The first stanza goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

As in life, Rachel’s death is also inviting me to trust Jesus.   To trust less in my understanding of Jesus, or my doctrinal purity, or who I agree or disagree with on certain matters but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Yes, no doubt there are important things worth contending over, but may my hope and yours be first and foremost in Jesus – the one who loves us and died for us in the midst of our ignorance and sin.  This trust in the work of this Person, I believe, is what is most important, and making this our business is what I believe will best honor the legacies of both Rachel and our Lord.

Rest in Peace and Power, RHE.


Progress, not perfection

I missed my son’s fifth grade graduation ceremony last week.   It was one of those honest mistakes that can happen when you are divorced and, in my case, do not have the benefit of daily reminders about important upcoming events.   My son had told me when he thought his graduation was and I failed to follow up with his mom to get the details until I was already a day late and a dollar short.   I was bummed.

A day later, my girlfriend’s son graduated from kindergarten and I was there by her side (she had given me those daily reminders!).    Guess who else was there?    My ex-wife and her family were four rows behind us, there to celebrate her nephew who was also graduating that day.    I was happy to see them there until we all exited the gym together and I caught my ex-wife’s glare.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“You missed your own son’s graduation but here you are.”

Ouch.   Those words cut me to the quick.   Not wanting to cause a scene I breathed out a sarcastic “thank you,” and peeled away, walking quickly to my car where I sat and stewed in my anger and shame.

Even after calling my sponsor and some other friends the feelings of shame lingered.    For hours I replayed the tape in my head, thought about all the things I should have said, and felt sorry for myself for being such a loser dad in her eyes and the eyes of her family.

Later that night I was (thankfully) at a 12 Step meeting and while listening to someone share I had a revelation.   He was talking about a “trust bucket.”    He said that he has been learning that when he was acting out in his addiction he was scooping entire gallon jugs of water out of the barrel of his wife’s trust bucket.   Eventually he emptied it out and then got into recovery.   As he works his program, he said, he likes to imagine that the bucket is filling back up as quickly as he drained it but in reality, in his wife’s reality, he’s refilling it one drop at a time with a syringe.

In that moment everything I wished I had said to my children’s mother out of shame or spite was replaced with the thing I should have said, the thing that a healthy, recovering person ought to say:

I totally get why you would assume I missed our son’s graduation due to me being a fool.   Over the past many years I gave you plenty of reason to believe that the only thing I cared about was myself and that if I missed anything important it was because I was acting out in my addiction.    I want you to know that I’m sorry I missed it.  It was simply due to not having it on my calendar. I’ve learned from this and won’t let it happen again. Thank you for being such a good mom to our kids and always making them a priority.

The moment I had this realization all the shame I was feeling the entire day, all the anger and resentment, left me.  It was replaced with gratitude that my kids have a mom who loves them very much and is there for them consistently and a renewed desire to continue in my program of recovery so that I can, with God’s help, reduce the amount of time it takes me to come to these conclusions.

Recovery is about progress, not perfection.    Last week it took me 12 hours to get to that place, and I didn’t act out.   That in and of itself is progress!  Next time I will strive to close that gap by remembering this story.    My purpose for sharing it with you is that I hope it helps you do the same.

Grace and peace,


Doubt vs. Certainty

Doubt and Certainty. I’ve been chewing on these words for a few weeks and something I read online yesterday brought them both into sharper focus for me. I have been thinking about the moments in my life where I was the most certain about certain things of God and how those moments didn’t serve me very well. Moments like when I was absolutely certain that there was no hell. Or moments when I was absolutely certain that there was. Moments when I was absolutely certain that no one would be in hell as well as moments when I was certain I knew exactly who will one day be there.  Additionally, there have been moments when I was absolutely certain that God blesses and celebrates gay men and women and moments when I was absolutely certain that God abhorred such unions.

These are just a few examples of things I have believed passionately at one time or another. They are very different from each other but the one thing they all have in common is the tenacity and certainty with which I held those beliefs. It felt good to be certain – to have a side on which I could plant my flag among a community of like minded people who were equally certain that we were right and they were wrong.

I have also had moments – even long seasons – of doubt. In recent months and years I have doubted that God loves me. I have doubted that God is for me. I have doubted that God would want anything to do with me because of choices I had made and habits in which I have gleefully wallowed. I have doubted that my life can be salvaged or that I could be forgiven. I’ve doubted that the church could be a place of healing and restoration, or that she would even welcome me were I to return.

Doubt, coupled with shame, have been my most constant companions for much of the past few years.

I share all that to say this: I think one of the things God is trying to teach me, and the thing I have been chewing on these last few weeks, is that neither one of these places – certainty and doubt – are healthy places for me.  Certainty tends to give root to pride, and doubt tends to give root to hopelessness.   These are not the best God has for me, or for you.  God hasn’t saved me so that I can be certain about certain theological concepts nor so that I might never doubt again. God knows I am human and designed me that way. God knows my weaknesses far better than I and isn’t expecting that I never doubt again or that I never get puffed up with certainty again. But just because he understands me and knows my heart is prone to wander into either of these two extremes doesn’t mean he desires for me to stay there.

I’m grateful that there have been people in my life who encourage and exhort me towards humility when I am certain and trust when I am doubting. It is humility and trust, rather than certainty and doubt, which are the virtues that serve me best in my Christian journey. This is what I am learning.

When people ask me today what my thoughts are about the existence of hell or the posture God has towards gay people, my answer is this: I don’t know. I leave those things to God who I am learning to trust is loving, just, good and true. My job, as I see it, is to love people and embrace them where they are, as they are, for who they are. Rather than try to make them fit my mold I pray that God would see fit to move in their lives in whatever way God sees fit today and that they, and I, be humble enough and open enough to receive it. I am learning that this way works for me far better than the other ways I have tried. I’m amazed to see how the Holy Spirit is capable of enlightening others to the way of Jesus when I just get out of the way and choose to be a friend.

And as for my doubts, I still struggle but I am learning to trust more. The more I sit in circles with recovering addicts like myself and hear people share their own struggles as well as joys around God and life, or how they too doubt God’s love for them at times or have witnessed God’s hand in something as simple as a cup of coffee or a hug, the more I realize that God is with me in ways I have not previously seen or understood. I’m learning to trust that he is with me and that he is someone I can once more turn my will and life over to one day at a time.

Humility and Trust. These are the spiritual realms in which I strive to live but don’t always succeed. When I do get side-tracked and slip into the far more human realms of Certainty and Doubt, I welcome feedback from fellow pilgrims who speak truth into my life and remind me that there is something better than both of those states. They aren’t trying to shame me for feeling that way. Rather, they are loving me by wanting more for me – for reminding me that I, too, want more for me. And so does God. In this way, these friends and reminders are, to steal a phrase from Barbara Brown Taylor, like altars in this world. I don’t always see them or heed them, but when I do, it’s a moment worthy of giving thanks, as I trust this hastily written post serves to do.

Thank you to all of you who have been, and continue to be, altars in this world.

So You’ve Cheated? Know Your Rights.

One of most common questions I get asked by men (I’m writing this as a man to other men, but the following advice applies to women caught in the same) who have been unfaithful in their marriage (whether through pornography use or a physical affair) is this:

How can I win back her trust?

The answer to that question will vary from couple to couple, but the foundation is always the same.  That foundation gets laid when the offender acknowledges what his rights are, which are these:

Did you catch them?   They are very important, so take a moment to write them down.    To say it another way, in case you missed it the first time, the rights that are yours as the unfaithful one in a marriage are these:


Speaking from personal experience, the longer it took me to realize this foundational truth – that I had no rights – the longer I delayed healing and the rebuilding of trust in my marriage.   The moment I stepped out of my marriage in unfaithfulness was the moment I forfeited whatever rights I had.

What sort of rights am I talking about?   Well, at the risk of sounding simplistic, ALL of them.   There are things about a broken marriage which will look different from a healthy one until trust is restored, and the sooner you recognize that the better.   Your marriage is no longer one of equal footing (if it ever was).   So what does this mean in real life?

  • When she hurts your feelings you don’t tell her that she has hurt your feelings.   Most likely she was trying to.   Suck it up.
  • When she calls you all sorts of names and her anger is bearing down on you with both barrels, you bear it.   Don’t assert your “right” to have your argument heard, and don’t try to tell her she is sinning against you with her words or actions.*
  • When she wants to stay up until 3am talking about her fears you listen.  Don’t assert your “right” to get some sleep because you have to work in the morning.
  • When she wants to cancel a family vacation or alter other routine events, comply.  If friends and family object, defend her.
  • When she wants to convert your office space into a scrap-booking room, help her do it.
  • When she wants to look through your cell phone every hour, or have access to your laptop, or wishes to know every move you make every minute of the day, be grateful she wants to be involved in your life so intimately, and thank her for it.

There came a point where I was so broken over the sin I had done and the pain my actions had brought upon my wife that I no longer had the will to rise up and assert myself.    The sooner I stopped asserting myself, the sooner healing began and trust was restored.   The more I fought that, the more miserable we both were. Here is a handy chart to demonstrate that:


A person who has experienced true brokenness over their sin, who understands godly sorrow over worldly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10), will willingly lay down their rights.    This is not something any of us can do on our own.  We must have the Spirit of God at work within us, constantly remaking us into the image of Christ, who “though in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).

We must become like Christ towards our hurting wives, and bear them and their pain the way Christ has borne ours.  You, like Jesus, have no rights.  

How long, you ask?  How long until I can eat where I want to eat?    Well, here is a helpful chart I made that depicts the length of time your rights are withheld:


This is not a hard and fast rule, but the longer you have been sinning against God and your wife the longer it will take to establish a good foundation.    Of course, the ideal you are shooting for is where both partners surrender their rights to each other, “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:21).     And no, you do not have the right to tell your wife she is to submit to you out of the fear of Christ.   You lost that right, too.    With God’s help, she will willingly give that back to you when you have done the hard work of following the above advice.

Guys, believe me, it’s worth it!

* While the offended party may indeed be sinning against God and you with their anger and bitterness, it’s crucial you understand 2 things:  First, you caused this.   Second, it’s not for you to point this out to her.    Your primary duty is to pray for her and to intercede on her behalf to God, bearing her sins in the way Christ bore your own.    The longer your wife sees her daggers falling on a humble, prayerful, loving target the sooner those daggers will lessen, become duller, and soon cease altogether.

O Ye Of Fickle Faith

Two days ago I got some news that I wasn’t expecting, which ruined for the moment the plans I was making for myself.   My wife, knowing my concern and sadness, sent me the following text while I was driving to work:

I’m sorry honey!!!  God is in control of our lives even when others make mistakes.  Keep your hope in God.  He knows what is best and when it’s best.   I love you.

The past few days I have been asked by a few friends if I could pinpoint one of the primary differences in my life today as compared to the life of 2 summers ago.   My answer, in large part, is found in the spirit of that text.

God is in control.  Hope in God.   God knows what and when is best.  Trust Him.

It is easy to believe God is in control when things are going your way.   When you wake up to a bright, sunny day, when the coffee is hot and strong, when the car starts and has plenty of gas, when your boss gives you a promotion, when you are healthy, when your spouse is on your side and your kids are being obedient – in all these things we give thanks to God, as we ought.

But what about when there is a raging storm outside, when the coffee pot is broken, when the car breaks down on the side of the road, when you show up to work and are given a pink slip, when you get diagnosed with cancer, when your spouse cheats or leaves and when your kids drive you crazy – in all these things we tend to think God is absent or to blame.


I confess that I often lack the faith to believe God is in control of all things, that all things work according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11).    I confess that I often lack joy when I face trials of various kinds, which are designed for the purpose of increasing my faith (James 1:1-4).   I confess that when I feel persecuted or tormented I far too often become self-absorbed rather than see this as an opportunity to bear witness to the glory and majesty of God (Luke 21:12-13).

In Mary Beth Chapman’s moving book about hope and struggle through the tragic death of their daughter she shares how they, as a family, had their faith deepened.    While the pain was still very raw, she describes how her husband, Stephen, would go into his sound-proof recording studio in their home and scream at the top of his lungs,

You give and you take away!   Blessed be the name of the Lord!   You give and you take away!  Blessed be the name of the Lord! 

He was quoting Job 1:21.   I had tears in my eyes as I read that for the first time, and again as I type them here.   Why?  Because it’s a faith I find so humble, trusting and vulnerable.    It’s one I see so often lacking in myself, and sadly, in much of the church world.

It is a faith that gives God glory in the midst of the storm, even though, paradoxically, it names Him as the author of it. It’s the faith of Job.   Though he lost everything dear to him, he refused to curse God.    His ruminations over what happened to him neither led him to believe God was absent nor that He was to blame (in a pejorative sense) but rather, God is the author of all things and that He is good and trustworthy.    If God is truly good, and if God is truly in control, then whatever befalls Job is re-imagined through that lens.   This is ultimate trust.  This is ultimate faith.    “Yet though you slay me,” Job said, “I will trust in you” (Job 13:15).     Job knows that life and death occur by God’s hand, according to the counsel of His will, and it’s all good for those who love God (Rom. 8:28).

And lest we think this God is archaic, one of some ancient, Old Testament understanding of God, Jesus reminds me that it is the God he knows, and trusts explicitly.   Sent to earth to die a horrible death, he prayed that this cup – one predestined by His Father – be spared him.    The pain he was about to endure he did not attribute to an absent God nor did he blame him, but instead prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”    Like Job, Jesus prayed, “Yet though you slay me, I will trust in you.”

This trust resulted in an Easter miracle.

Granted, this God offends our modern sensibilities of what is “good” and “loving.”   It isn’t one that appeases the masses, or tickles itching ears who long to have their best life now.

My wife remembers all too well the many times she was told by a godly woman that the pain her husband (me) was inflicting upon her were opportunities for her to repent, to run to God, to worship Him.   For years she resisted this counsel, believing instead that if God were love He must be absent, or to blame, or did not love her very much at all to allow this suffering in her life.    She couldn’t stand to hear from women who testified that if she would only trust God, she would one day be giving Him thanks for her afflictions (just like David does in Psalm 119, numerous times).

Today, however, she is doing just that.   As her text above demonstrates, my wife has learned that the faith she thought she had was a fickle one, tossed and torn by the events of any given day.    Today, by the grace and mercy of God, she stands as a Job-like example to me of one who strives to pray, “Though you slay me, God, I will trust you!”

Seeing such faith in action leads me, and I hope you as well, to pray, “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24).