This week’s post is about what trust is, and the cycle of testing one’s trust. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection.
Lauren is a multifaith spiritual care provider, which means her worldview tries to be open-hearted, supportive, and respectful. Her faith traditions that power her caregiving are some combination of Christianity and Indigenous ways of being and doing. Lent is a type of season for certain types of Christians. If your faith tradition doesn’t have a “Lenten Season”, please join us anyway as we journey through this false-spring, where we swing between winter’s finish and not-yet-spring.
“Trust me, I play a doctor on tv…”, trust fall, distrust, “In God we trust”. What is trust?
I was at a leadership workshop at the beginning of March. “One of our jobs as managers is to build trust” was something I heard. Then I had a bit of an existential crisis…
Do I Even Know What Trust Is?!
Then I remembered how tired I was. I took a breath and calmed down. I might not have remembered, right then, what my definition of trust was, but I trusted that I had one. After some rest and reflection, I assured myself that yes, I did know what trust is.
Trust is an assessment of how safe, dependable, and reliable someone (including myself) is and the conclusion that “Yup, so-and-so is good to trust.” Before trust is established, all living beings require a period of testing. Even after trust has become foundational to a relationship, circumstances, situations, and trauma cycle us to a testing period again. If trust is broken, we observe how someone repairs or restores (or not) the trust between us. Those observations also become a part of future assessments of trust. While figuring out how safe, stable, and secure someone is, we need to be vulnerable and admit that we need safety and other trustworthy people to thrive.
Most living things do not trust absolutely. Cycling through the testing period again and again helps us make better decisions about who to trust, who not to trust, and for how long. However, those testing periods limit growth in other areas like sharing love, empathizing, and being an active part of community. And when we test, our sense of curiosity-in-the-face-of-mystery can be sparked. When we move from testing to trusting, our sense of awe and amazement grows and thrives.
Sacred texts and stories across cultures and religions tell us about the relationship between peoples, between living beings, between people and the land, between people and the universe, and between people and something greater than ourselves. All these relationships require trust to be a two-way street. Our sacred texts and stories wonderfully illustrate that cycle of trust.
The sacred story I offer today is the story of Ruth. The book of Ruth in the Hebrew scriptures is a relatively short book: four chapters, 80 verses total. It is one of the few books where God does not speak directly or is even a character of the story. God is spoken about, but God’s actions are in the background of what is happening to Ruth and Naomi.
As you read my retelling, let’s spend some time reflecting:
- I wonder where you see the cycle of distrust-testing-trust-repair in Naomi’s story.
- I wonder how you trust in God’s provision.
- I wonder where you rediscover a sense of wonder in Ruth’s story.
The Brief Retelling of the Story of Ruth
Ruth marries into Naomi’s family after Naomi, her husband, and their two sons have left Bethlehem and settled in Moab. Orpah is a Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi, like Ruth. Naomi’s husband dies. Then Naomi’s two sons also die, leaving Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth in Moab without any of Naomi’s relatives to provide protection in the time period’s patriarchal society. Naomi has no way to provide for her daughters-in-law and their future. Naomi makes the hard decision to leave Moab and return to her homeland. She says goodbye to her daughters, telling them to stay in Moab and let Naomi journey alone.
Ultimately, Orpah decides to stay, but Ruth commits to Naomi, saying “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Here you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.” (translation from sefaria.org)
I am in awe of Ruth’s commitment. What would make Ruth so loyal? Ruth had to know that she and Naomi may likely die. Though Ruth knew how Moab worked because that’s where she was from, the same couldn’t be said for Bethlehem. A new country has different rules, different cultures.
Back in the story, Naomi is deep in the midst of grieving. Naomi says, “Do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!”
Naomi is distrustful of God, calling God out for such a miserable situation. I appreciate that Naomi has such a relationship with God.
Ruth is willing to do the day-to-day hard work of providing for their small family. So much so that her feet are blistered and sore at the end of each day of her field labor. Ruth’s foreign-ness, hard work, and deep commitment to Naomi are noticed by the Bethlehem community, particularly by Boaz whose field Ruth works on. Naomi’s advice, even while grieving, propels Ruth towards Boaz. Boaz has a sense of wonderment about Ruth. She doesn’t fit in, but she somehow fits.
At the end, Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz are quite happy. Their trust for each other and in God’s provision is deep. God is said to have blessed Ruth because she and Boaz marry and have children, which secures Naomi and Ruth’s futures. Because Ruth stayed with Naomi, because Ruth committed to Naomi, King David is born many generations later. Without Ruth, there would be no David, who is an important person in the sacred Hebrew text and stories. But that is a story for another day…
Find all of the Lenten Season Series posts and more on our Ministry Resources page.