The year our oldest son dropped out of high school and became an addict was a very dark and difficult year for us. It was also a time of deeper exposure to life’s most important lessons. I didn’t fully realize it until much later, but it was during that anguished time that I gained a greater understanding of humility, honesty, courage, trust and grace.
In this week’s post I want to share with you what I learned about trust.
Trust is the ability to rely on or depend on another person’s help and support and care. In the second step of the Twelve Steps we come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. In the third step, we make the decision to turn our lives and wills over to the loving, capable care of God. We make the decision to trust God.
I had heard this short catch phrase–“Trust God”–all my life. It had been said all too often in my hearing as a kind of magical spell, a quick fix. It seemed to be thrown out as an easy answer by people who hadn’t even bothered to listen to the problem. Trust God. What did it mean? How does one do this? What does it change? More often than not, it seemed to lead to shame and confusion rather than to restored lives.
When our son was addicted to drugs, lying about his use and growing more and more paranoid, the phrase “Trust God” took on an entirely new and desperate meaning for me. It sounded like I was being told, “Let go of your son even though it feels like he will fall to his death. Let go of him and trust that God will catch and hold him and care for him.” This seemed impossible to me. I felt like I was being asked to do the impossible.
But it is what I had to do. I could no longer put my trust in my abilities to fix the problem. Only God could restore our son. My work was to entrust myself and our son and our entire family to God’s loving care. Every day. Multiple times a day. Trusting God was no longer a simple slogan. It took on urgent meaning. It became something visceral. At first it was like performing a high-wire act, expecting to fall at any moment, but choosing to believe that there was a safety net beneath us even though I could not see the net or understand how it could catch us.
So what steps did I take as I inched my way out onto that high wire? I took steps like praying. Not long, theologically correct prayers, but short, urgent prayers for help, for guidance, for courage. I took steps like asking others who knew us and loved us to pray for us as well. I took steps of facing and accepting the seriousness of the problem we faced as a family, and of facing and accepting our powerlessness to cure addiction. Ultimately, we took the step of requiring that our son go into treatment or move out. That was the moment when we actively, fully let him go and entrusted him to God’s care.
A friend who was praying for us told me in the midst of our darkest days that she sensed that God was inviting me to rest. Rest! The word startled me. It seemed so bizarre in my circumstances. And yet I could feel the difference it would make. I could climb down from my imaginary high-wire act and crawl into God’s loving arms. And rest. For me this became the deepest, truest meaning of the word trust. And it, too, was visceral–this sense of being securely held in the arms of love, this sense that everyone in my family was being held in God’s loving arms. I did not have to let my son fall; he was already being held. Letting him go simply meant that I stopped getting in God’s way, that I quit acting as if there were no God who was powerful and loving and able to heal. Letting go meant resting in God’s powerful love for me and for my son.
It was a great grace-fullness that our son agreed, reluctantly, to go into treatment. This might not have been the outcome of our intervention. He might have decided to spend time on the streets before he became willing to end the nightmare. There is no way to know in advance how long the journey with addiction will go on. It is not something we can control. But, fortunately, that was not his choice. We found out later that he decided to go to treatment partly because he had become so paranoid that he wanted to get away from the people he thought were after him. God used the insanity he was experiencing to help him make a sane choice.
The outcome of the story is that we let our son go and we got him back. God held us all in arms of love and brought healing to our son and to our family, one day at a time, day after day after day. “It is a story of redemption,” our son said a few years later. It is a story of redemption, a story full of grace.