Trust vs. Mistrust.
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase? It’s Erik Erikson’s first stage of psychosocial development. In the early months and years of life, children learn to trust (or mistrust) people and their environment. When they are hungry, does someone feed them? When they need to be held, does someone hold them? When they have something to say, does someone listen?
I’m a minister who works with children. I’ve heard the facts, but there is nothing like experience to prove that the window of 0 to 3 years is a crucial time for children to develop a sense of trust. This is why the nursery is such an important place in the church. It’s why the childcare for infants and toddlers during worship is so important.
Please pardon the clunking noise. It’s me stepping on my soap box.
Caregivers teach children that they can trust God. Children form their foundational understanding of God through their experience with adults. Children learn love when we love them. Children learn grace when we offer them grace. Children learn trust when we build a trustworthy environment. Ministers can remind caregivers (over and over again) that they embody God’s love for children. They are teaching children to trust, enabling them to have faith.
I am forever learning to trust God. I am forever learning to act like I trust God. Trusting God occasionally comes naturally. Most of the time, it’s unnatural. I cross my arms and turn my back. In my best two year old voice, I pout, “I don’t want to!”
I don’t want to trust that God is working all things together for good. I want things to work out my way. I don’t want to trust God’s timing. I want to force my timeline on the projects and people around me. I don’t want to trust God to provide what my family and I most need. I want what I want when I want it.
Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said God’s kingdom belongs to children. My firstborn recently turned three. Her trusting soul is an (extra)ordinary miracle. She wakes up in the morning and trust-falls into my arms. She calls for help when she is hurt, sad, or nervous. When she asks a question, she presumes the answer to be honest and true. When I react inappropriately and apologize for my actions, her forgiveness overflows from a bottomless well of trust that can only come from God.
I am most often learning trust rather than teaching trust. Does that seem ironic to you too? Indeed, it is the mysterious, irresistible, beautiful, and challenging irony of ministry and motherhood.
Today we live in a world of mistrust. That is why I find trust to be miraculous—an unexpected occurrence for which there is no rational explanation. Against the backdrop of a difficult world, the trust exhibited by children is a miracle. Amid pain, grief, and suffering, people choosing to put their trust in God is a miracle. In the midst of seismic cultural shift, churches that trust God’s call to minister are a miracle.
The other day, as I walked out of a local hospital after doing pastoral visits, a chaplain came over the intercom to offer a morning prayer. I did not hear the whole prayer. But the first line of the prayer stuck with me:
In you, O Lord, do I place my trust. You are the strength of my life.
As we ride the unpredictable waves of ministry and motherhood, may our souls be anchored by trust in our Lord. May our ministry—in and outside our homes—proclaim the life-giving strength that comes from God.
A Georgia native and graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, Hannah Coe serves as Associate Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri. Hannah and her husband, David, are parents to Katherine and Annalina. They enjoy playing, eating, and the occasional nap.