“Do you trust me?”

I smiled as these words reverberated in the deepest reaches of my mind, stirring my spirit as wind whipped sand. I lifted myself from its prone position, squinting against the fiery sunrise while brushing away bits of granite and moss. I replaced the lens cap of my Canon, stuffed it back into its pack and scrambled up the rocky shore to a tiny hotel room and its steaming coffee carafe.

It was a lone seagull that woke me just in time, squawking from the rocks outside my window before a palate of pastels began to stain the space where high and deep touch. Always eager to witness dawn, I kept an eye on the spreading color and hopped around the bed in search of shoes and gear. I laughed wildly as I ran to the sun, recalling the same whisper when my fingers moved to set an alarm the previous night, “Do you trust me?”

During three startling days alone, the Lord drew me close by revealing himself powerfully in test after test and provision after provision. Hundreds of miles north of home, I was learning that trust felt a lot like adventure, queasy and unsettled yet promising and utterly satisfying.

As God pursued me – I have no other way to describe the unique character of that trip – it became clear that his desire for us is to simply delight in whatever we are doing. (I am not talking about diaper changing or toilet scrubbing or whatever it is that makes each of us cringe, believe me! Rather, I mean the purposeful leaning into one another and our talents each day.) His promise in this is that the strength he gives is limitless; the fatigue and exasperation and discomfort are not that we’re nearing the end of our capacity but simple and common responses to trying events.

This seems especially relevant in the age of so many movements, especially those geared toward wellness and fitness and, dare I say, parenting. The number of badges as bumper stickers and tattoos and merit patches and trophies and exclusive fitness “tribes” and coop memberships is staggering which isn’t really a new phenomenon but a cacophony nonetheless. Before I begin to sound super holy, I will candidly cop to owning three proudly posted badges on the back of my vehicle – though I’ve become rather convicted about it.

Since when did we need these to measure our strength?! Our giftedness? Our belonging to something significant? When did God’s promises become less compelling than an m•dot logo? I wonder if it’s pride in the worst (read: subtlest) way; idols that, if tested, reveal our desire to declare ourselves outside a need for grace. In other words, whose story are we telling?

No doubt these affinities begin benignly enough, perhaps even stemming from those talents mentioned above. Though, without care, our pursuits can grow into identities to wear as fancy costumes like playing dress-up with capes and crowns. Which is why the tests of heart are oh-so important.

It is clear from his word that God tests us to determine if he is the desire of our hearts. Trust requires a realm of discomfort that we might go beyond the reach of our own rescue to discover God’s mighty strength. Though, often we prefer to test God. In the face of his unchanging nature, our tests are merely flimsy challenges that reveal only our doubt.

It often feels painful to shed these identities as our will wrestles with greed and grace. Yet they become too small as God grows us. Much like outgrown parchment skin, identities and lies and fancies must be discarded to make room for the greater life he intends to give us, which begs the question: do we trust him enough to choose life and the power to master sin rather than self?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139:23)

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” (Prov 27:21)

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.” (Deut 30:19-20)

“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must [master] it.” (Gen 4:6-7)

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