“How do you get him to do that?” Thom pondered out loud to me sporting a confused demeanor as we sat together on the sofa in the basement.
Henry had jumped in my lap and worked up a symphony of purrs as he circled and settled down to his liking. After a few minutes he stretched out like a sausage, flipped over on his back exposing his belly, then twisted himself gladly into a radically relaxed position, his limbs hanging in every direction.
I call it the back twist.
“It’s called trust,” I replied.
You see, Henry knows that I am in tune with him. So, in return he is naturally in tune with me. I respond to his needs. I know what he likes and I do it. I know what he doesn’t like and I avoid it.
Trust is pivotal in any relationship. The deeper the trust, the more relaxed and vulnerable the relationship can be.
Maintaining sensitivity to the needs of others and responding appropriately builds trust in our relationships. Otherwise, if we’re continually wrapped up in our own world (often unintentionally wounding others), trusting us can become too much of a challenge for others.
But what about our relationship with God?
One Saturday morning my friend, Lisa, rang my doorbell for our coffee date. Through the years, our conversations often entailed learning to trust God.
When my daughter opened the front door and Lisa caught a glimpse of me standing in the foyer with one of our cats lying beneath me while I stroked his tummy with my foot, she recognized instantly our theme.
“That’s how you are with God!” she exclaimed, as she crossed the threshold without a formal greeting and pointing to the twirl of fluff laid out in front of her.
That morning with me and my cats, Lisa gleaned from God a cozy picture of trust, and due to her growth and discernment she was able to recognize it as such.
With a history of earned trust between us, my cats (and dogs) enjoy complete vulnerability with me. Is it a stretch to say ~ that we also can develop with God a relationship based on trust… and even learn to do the back twist with Him?
Some questions to ponder in this pursuit:
~Am I comfortable being vulnerable with God?
~Can I lay my soul open before Him?
~Have I ever stood before Him completely naked?
~Do I hide parts of myself from Him?
~Have I ever given God permission to do whatever He wants in my life? With my soul? My family? My job?
~Is there anything I hold tightly to that I don’t trust Him with? Have I asked Him to reveal these areas to me?
~Does it occur to me that He already sees everything inside me? Even areas I’m too chicken to face?
~If I’ve honestly given everything inside and out to Him and permission for Him to do whatever He wants, then I have nothing to lose.
Great places to start to learn trust are spending time in safe, believing communities and time alone with God. These settings can give us opportunity to deal regularly with the multi-layered issues of fear, shame, guilt, sin, control, judgment and condemnation we harbor.
When we take the valuable time to whittle away at these walls, our intimacy with God increases exponentially. When too many of these issues stand as walls between God and us, we can’t be in tune with Him for very long, if at all.
In dealing with our issues, even though discomfort may be the initial sensation, we must be brave and never let it intimidate us from reaping the rewards of knowing God intimately. Discomfort and emotional pain are effective tools that the enemy uses to intimidate the saints, preventing them from knowing their God intimately.
Psalm 126:5 encourages us not to cower in fear when facing our issues, “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing.” Always best to press onward, inward and upward through the pain or discomfort and get to the sweet spot of truth and freedom awaiting us. Afterwards, we have only to learn how to stay there (Gal. 5:1, Eph. 6:14). Usually, it is by learning to rest (Heb. 4:9-11, Matt.11:28-30) which by the way, is also an issue of trust.
Whether in group or alone, I delight in getting to the root. Once there, I know I have found victory. For instance, if I sense any fear in thinking about intimacy with God, I must ask myself why. Then I have to open, and prayerfully examine, my heart to find the answer. The LORD is always helpful with this because He can see what I cannot.
If I admit deep down that I feel He must have something against me, then that is usually related to a layer of guilt or shame. So, I explore it. Often the root goes back to a related event in my life where I internalized guilt or shame. So, I unpack the shame, the related event, my perceptions of it and the people and thought processes which activated it. I bring these issues out in the open progressively to myself, God and others, in which ever order feels most appropriate. Sharing these issues with safe people who can relate to me is healing and causes me to gain a greater perspective on truth.
God always brings up the next issue at just the right time. Issues that arise in relationships are huge indications that God is pointing out areas inside me that could use some attention. Perhaps I’m not speaking up for myself or I’m dreading having a difficult conversation with someone or I’m not exercising strong enough boundaries. Facing the issue, getting wise counsel and support, then deciding how best to handle it would be the next step for me. (Cloud and Townsend have many practical books on relationship management.)
So how does God get me to do the back twist with Him??
Again, it’s called trust. And it involves a step-by-step process unique to each individual. Just as I trained Henry to trust, God trained me.
Belly up? Come on, now. Consider the richness of blessing in asking God to lead you in the necessary steps to do the back twist with Him!
But let all those who take refuge and put their trust in You rejoice; let them ever sing and shout for joy, because You make a covering over them and defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You and be in high spirits.
KEEP and protect me, O God, for in You I have found refuge, and in You do I put my trust and hide myself.
The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my keen and firm Strength in Whom I will trust and take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my High Tower.
As for God, His way is perfect! The word of the Lord is tested and tried; He is a shield to all those who take refuge and put their trust in Him.
O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him.
Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in and confidently rely on the loving-kindness and the mercy of God forever and ever.
Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is a refuge for us (a fortress and a high tower). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God and made Him my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.
And He led them on safely and in confident trust, so that they feared not; but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!
Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love, and kindness–trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never].
Your testimonies are very sure; holiness [apparent in separation from sin, with simple trust and hearty obedience] is becoming to Your house, O Lord, forever.
You who [reverently] fear the Lord, trust in and lean on the Lord! He is their Help and their Shield.
It is better to trust and take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
Teach me good judgment, wise and right discernment, and knowledge, for I have believed (trusted, relied on, and clung to) Your commandments.
Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning, for on You do I lean and in You do I trust. Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my inner self to You.
Then you will walk in your way securely and in confident trust, and you shall not dash your foot or stumble.
IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off].
Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God,