Trust Falls and Fails: Practices of Faithfulness and Truthfulness
Friend of TCF Darrin Compagner recently preached about the Christian practices that help us to build healthy and faithful communities. He’s agreed to share some of his thoughts in the form of a four-part blog series, focusing especially on Christine Pohl’s book “Living Into Community.” Each week, we’ll also suggest one practice for you to try out – a Christian discipline that can help you, too, become the kind of person who can disagree well. For Week 3: Think about a commitment you've made that you may be struggling to keep. Maybe it's a small project at the office, or a tea party with your daughter - whatever it is, take some time this week to follow through. Christian community begins in grateful response to the grace and gifts of God. This grateful response, then, takes shape in practices of faithfulness and truthfulness. Or at least, that's how it's supposed to work. In practice, we often find it difficult to speak truth, to make and keep promises, to give one another our trust, and to be worthy of trust. Perhaps you've been in a setting where a group attempts a trust fall exercise. The idea is simple enough, to develop and build trust through a simple exercise of falling back and being caught. A Youtube video helpfully and comically, if painfully, chronicles a number of ways such exercises can go wrong. For many of us, we know of and have experienced similar moments in Christian community. Someone attempts to build trust by telling the truth, only to speak wounding words. Another person gives us a promise that they will surely show up for an event, but fails to follow through. Each opportunity for telling truth and demonstrating faithfulness is a little exercise in building a trusting community. But it's also an opportunity to undermine that very trust. And there are other things that can undermine communal trust and truth. Culturally, we are often shaped towards anti-faithfulness by having unlimited options. We stay in consumer mode in ways that make steady communal relationships impossible. We feel jaded towards truth and faithfulness because we are subjected to such a steady stream of untruthfulness and broken promises in carefully crafted ad campaigns and politicians seeking re-election. In an often dishonest and unpredictable world, truth-telling and faithfulness don't come naturally to us. What Scripture emphasizes above all is the truth and faithfulness of God. God does not keep all his options open, but binds himself via promises. He did so to Abraham, and a longish section of Genesis traces the various trust falls and fails as Abraham haltingly grows in faith. But finally, as Hebrews 6 summarizes, Abraham "waited patiently" and "received what was promised." In Christ, we have God's faithfulness given in the flesh, our faithful high priest, who is for us an "anchor for the soul." So a people, anchored in Christ, living in the midst of an unsteady, commitment-averse culture, can be steady enough to make and keep promises, big and small. Apart from this the work of Christian community is consistently undermined, like building a sand-castle within reach of the waves. As with practices of Gratitude, Christian communities can call one another to practice Truthfulness and Faithfulness in counter-cultural ways. Sometimes it is little promises made and kept, like signing up to help with a clean-up day and, wonderfully, showing up to do so. Sometimes it is naming difficulties early and clearly, and eschewing the posturing and constant image-maintenance expected in a consumer culture. Such acts build trusting and trustworthy communities, and they make the faithfulness and truthfulness of God, too, credible.