The theme this week is trust; specifically trusting fellow Christians. As I connect with more people here, I hear story after story about broken trust within the Christian community. Working through distrust (and building trust) are themes Eddie and I are tackling in private conversations, as well as in various groups.
I thought I could address distrust without it coming for me, but I was wrong.
Around the world, Christian culture defines who is the "right kind of Christian" according to different values. Every group believes their own definition is the right one and those who fall outside of their doctrinal stance are "lost." Depending on the criteria, I'm either a sinner or a saint, a blessing to the church or a blight.
To live in a small community is for everyone to know who you are. Being a foreigner, and a missionary on top of that, puts me in the center of a fishbowl. My reputation precedes me into every meeting and every introduction to someone new. I'm very careful to represent myself with integrity, not painting myself more holy or righteous than anyone else.
But I don't want to stay separate from others; I believe in partnership. To build effective and lasting partnerships, though, I have to allow myself to be vulnerable and dependent on others. This week I was asked to officially identify with another ministry. I balked. I didn't want to sign on the dotted line. I felt uncomfortable and unsafe. I didn't trust that the other parties knew me well enough not to throw me under the bus when push comes to shove.
We've all seen the team building exercise called the trust fall, where a group of people gather behind their teammate and are supposed to catch them when they fall. It's an exercise that can build trust, but it can also reveal when trust isn't merited. Just Google "trust fall fail videos" and you'll see plenty of examples of when this exercise proved unsuccessful.
So, what do we do when the "team" is known to let people fall? What do we do if we doubt the group can handle our weight? Do we walk away? Do we fall blindly, hoping we won't break anything on the way down?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
I don't know if I should place my reputation in the hands of this group. It's risky. But instead of relying on my own understanding, I'll seek the Lord and trust Him to show me the right path. For now, my next step is to work on building relationship, rather than ignoring my misgivings. While partnerships are a valuable thing, they should be based on communication and honesty. There's wisdom in looking before we leap.