If you want to see some very cool bird-human interaction videos, check out “Lesley the Bird Nerd” on YouTube. The bond she has created with some wild birds is amazing.
After watching her videos, Sharon and I decided to try and build a relationship with a pair of nesting blue jays that have made their home in a tree in our back yard. This morning, we enjoyed our coffee together with a few peanuts strategically placed at the edge of our patio. We were excited to see one of the jays swoop down, sit on the trellis at the corner of our patio, and then pick up a peanut. A few minutes later, it returned and picked up a second peanut. What a thrill to see the beauty of their colouration and behaviours from only a few feet away.
Apparently, jays are highly intelligent birds and can remember faces. Over time, they will build up trust in the peanut-providers to the point of willingly taking the peanuts directly from them. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a blue jay take a peanut from your hand?
Trust doesn’t come naturally. It is earned. This is true of bird-nut holder relationships, of all our interpersonal relationships, and of our relationship with God. When it comes to our relationship with God, things get more complicated because of the necessity of faith.
Our trust relationships with birds and others is based on “what you see is what you get.” We carefully measure the dynamics of the relationship and cautiously open ourselves to greater and greater risk as the other party proves itself to be dependable. But in our relationship with God, things are often not as they appear to be.
We observe - and experience - injustice, pain, and suffer loss. We have cause to wonder, “Where is God?” or “How long, O Lord?” We are not alone - this has been the cry of humanity since Adam and Eve. If we use the metrics of human relationships, God is not trustworthy. Trustworthy people are not absent in times of crisis. Trustworthy people communicate frequently and openly. Trustworthy people reassure us of their presence and concern. It often feels like God doesn’t do any of that.
We may, then, come to one of two conclusions: either that God doesn’t care, or that God doesn’t even exist. Many people do.
So, how do we know - and grow - trust in God? It is a complicated question. I’m not going to presume I can explain it. However, there are some foundational truths that nurture our ability to trust in God.
First, God is a God of history - time and space. “Spirituality” is too often relegated to the world of the unseen, of internal emotions and experiences, and individualism (“it’s all about me”). In contrast, the Creator God who is the object of our trust has demonstrated - and it is documented for us in verifiable historical texts - that He engages in the time and space He has created. He interacts with this world. There is an overall purpose to reality. There is structure and function that implies intentionality in design. God isn’t just an observer “out there,” He is an engaged, providential care-giver (albeit, usually so hidden and subtle it may go unnoticed).
Second, God’s fingerprints are observable. The greatest reason we don’t see God’s fingerprints is because we don’t want to see them. After all, if we do acknowledge their presence, we must also acknowledge God Himself. The detail and regularity of the rhythms in creation, the structure of bee hives, the soaring of an eagle, the beauty of a rose are all divine fingerprints.
Third, the greatest evidence of trustworthiness is the resurrection. What happened three days after Jesus’ crucifixion is the greatest evidence of God’s trustworthiness. Not only was God in human form - Jesus - willing to sacrifice Himself for us, He also demonstrated the ultimate authority over all things by rising from the dead. This willingness to endure the betrayal and humiliation must be motivated by something other than altruism. It was motivated by love, by faithfulness to accomplish what had been long promised: the destruction of death, sin, and the grave. Surely the One who accomplishes that is worthy to be trusted.
So why the struggle? It is because we are all in process. None of us are perfect. We are still encumbered with the reality of being broken people living in a broken world. Everyday we experience and observe realities that seem to defy the trustworthiness of God. We also experience His faithfulness. Building trust in God depends - in part - on which we will focus. We know the world is broken. We know we are broken. Yet God is still faithful. He is trustworthy.