Trust can be a noun, but it is also a verb. We can have a thing called trust, but trusting is what we do when we exercise it. A flaccid lump with no muscles can do nothing. Human beings cannot float around freely the way jellyfish can.
But there is a catch. To sustain our own sense of trust, we must ourselves be trust-worthy. Those who cannot trust often turn out to be those who cannot be trusted.
In my search for a job, I have developed a sixth sense about this. Prospective employers who shift uneasily in their seats, eyeing me distrustfully, I know I dare not trust. They seem sure they must get the better of me before I can do the same to them.
My mother used to warn me that those who always suspect everybody else of lying are usually liars themselves. They have never developed any sense of trust in others because they assume everybody else is as shifty as they are. Unfortunately, they help to contribute to the sort of world in which no one can trust anyone else. As the saying goes, we must indeed be the change we want to see in the world.
An inability to see other people as trustworthy leads into a downward spiral. And it drags everybody else down with it. We simply cannot operate according to an entirely different set of rules than the one we expect other people to adhere to.
Companies that operate from a position of distrust seem not to realize they are helping to create a climate in which they don’t dare trust their employees. As hard times wear on, people drift into greater distance from each other. This distrust becomes a disease that feeds upon itself.
Just after Easter, churches often read the story of Doubting Thomas’s challenge to the other disciples. They are together in that locked room, and they tell Thomas they have seen the risen Jesus right there in their midst. Thomas sadly shakes his head, telling them he won’t believe it unless he feels the nail wounds in those hands and thrusts his hand into that lanced side.
“Tut-tut,” the preacher usually says here. We shouldn’t be like Thomas and demand any proof. Thomas bad, other disciples (except, of course, for Judas) good. Quick and easy, cut and dried. End of story.
But they are omitting the rest of the story. Jesus returned to that locked room while Thomas was there. “Feel the wounds in my hands,” He urges him, “and put your hand into my side. Don’t doubt, but believe!”
LGBT Christians and spiritual seekers tend to be Thomases. We can relate to how hard it is to believe when there seems precious little proof. And the preachers tut-tut at us, too. They don’t seem to realize that all their tut-tutting was a big part of what led to our crisis of trust in the first place.
Again, they leave out the rest of the story. Jesus did not react to Thomas’s doubts with fiery, righteous rage. He gently admonished all present of the blessedness of those who would not see, but yet believe. But the key word, regarding His reaction, is gently.
He struggled with His own doubts. His life was rough, and very short. Not every day did a dove descend upon Him and a message thunder from the sky: “You are my beloved Son, and with you I am well pleased.”
Blessed indeed are those who believe without having seen Jesus. And yet, have they really not seen Him at all? There are other ways in which truth may be seen.
Jesus understood that in order to develop trust, people must see some real evidence of that in which they are supposed to be trusting. This was why He repeatedly admonished His followers that they must follow His example of love in action as closely as they could.
How are the standard-bearers of the faith doing in compliance with this? An increasing number are doing better and better. But their history hasn’t always been good. And some still disgrace Jesus every time they open their mouths.
When they insist gays and lesbians must have chosen “that lifestyle” because we’re “evil,” they seem unable to realize they’re commenting far more on their own morality – or lack thereof – than they are on anybody else’s. What does it say about them that they would prefer to believe the very worst about others? A growing number of people, including other Christians, are coming to realize that those who so harshly judge us are the ones who are showing themselves to be lacking in integrity.
They cannot be trusted, themselves, because they are not helping to weave the net of trust in the presence of God’s love in this world. Instead of helping to weave it, they are tearing it apart. Human society becomes more trustworthy only when we weave this net together. We don’t merely weave it for others. We also weave it for ourselves.
Heterosexual friends in the Church, who have become LGBT allies, have told me they’ve begun to trust us because we have remained so trust-worthy. We have continued to hang in there, serving Christ and our fellow human beings the best we can – in spite of how much more difficult this is often made for us than it is for anybody else.
It may not seem fair, but this is exactly what we must go right on doing.
Our opponents are self-destructing. More and more they must rely on lies, and all the time their lies are becoming more blatant and absurd. To quote another saying, for every finger they point at us, there are three others pointing right back at them.
Lack of trust within the Church has created the wider problem of a lack of trust toward the Church. Not only for LGBT folks, but for others as well. If being the wrong sort of human being and merely attempting to live a whole and happy life is considered a sin that separates one from God, then what does that say about the Church?
Even heterosexuals are starting to connect the dots, to see the wider implications. A scandal of faith is developing, and scandalized people of all orientations are leaving the fold. The witness of our faith – of our willingness to believe, and to persist in belief – to live in confidence that God loves us – can generate fresh trust in those, both gay and straight, who have given up on faith.
The net has been badly torn by the excluders, by those who take no pleasure in being “in” unless they can keep others “out.” This ends up not making even them feel more secure, but less. For now the net is riddled with holes, and it won’t hold them, either. They couldn’t tear it apart for us without tearing it apart for themselves.
As it turns out, a hole is a hole.
When the risen Jesus told the disciples to cast their net over the side of their boat, they pulled up a load of fish so huge they could barely haul it in. This tells us something crucial about how Jesus sees the work of the Church. Not a single fish is expendable; none must be let slip away so that the others can wiggle their tailfins in smug satisfaction.
God doesn’t think in terms of some being valuable and others not. It is a privilege for each and every one of us to be chosen. And each and every one of us truly is.
The net of trust in God’s love must be painstakingly rewoven. Only then will it hold all. And only then can any of us rest in trusting that it holds us.
A self-described “Libertarian Episcopalian lesbian,” freelance writer and the author of Good Clowns, a young adult novel published in 2018, Lori Heine published a blog called Born on 9-11 and was a frequent contributor to the website Liberty Unbound. A native of Phoenix, Ariz., she graduated from Grand Canyon University in 1988 and spent much of her life in the insurance industry before turning full-time to writing as a freelancer, blogger and author.