I’m someone who gives trust away far too easily. I more often than not operate under the philosophy that you have my trust until something happens where I have a reason not to trust you anymore. And that can come in pieces. I’ll trust you with this part or I’ll trust you to do this, but I won’t trust you to do this other thing or I won’t trust you with all of this information.
Trust also happens to be maybe one of the most important aspects of a relationship of any kind. Without it, the way you interact and the way you carry yourself is inevitably guarded, inauthentic, and not fully you. It matters on the basis of relating and it matters in the context of community. No trust means no soft landing places. No trust means no growth. No trust means nothing deeper than what you see on the outside.
And yet, isn’t it amazing how much we actually do trust people. Every time I get in my car, I trust all the other drivers on the road to pay attention and follow the laws. I’m on a pretty intense travel schedule at the moment, and every time I board a plane, I trust the pilots and the flight crew with my life at 30,000 feet above the ground. We trust so easily the processes and policies that are in place by our local, state, and federal governments for our health and protection, and we really have little clue what happens behind the scenes to make that happen.
So although I trust all the people *out there*, I often find that I have a difficult time trusting myself *in here*, having true faith that my story actually matters, that I’m moving in the right direction, that I actually do know a few things about what’s happening in my life. I tend to think my process is wrong, that I’m going to mess it up and I’m going to miss what life has for me because I’m too busy not trusting where life is moving me.
And it’s everything.
What should I do with my job? Should I say yes to this opportunity? What should I do with my Friday night?
Over the weeks and months of this year, though, I learned it’s undeniable that when we choose to fully enter into our stories, when we simply embrace the next thing, when we look beyond what’s on the surface of our days, there’s a rich and beautiful stirring of growth, opportunity, and grace.
So let me tell you the story of aftermath. I’ve mentioned before that I choose a word for my year every year. It’s a grid of sorts to my year, or maybe rather a lens to view all of the things that happen in a single year through. This word, I’ve learned, has been one of the few cornerstones that happens to help me make sense of this crazy life we all live.
At the beginning of this year, I chose the word aftermath to be my word of 2016. This was on the cusp of my 2015 word, unbound. Unbound was the complete opposite I thought it was going to be. What I imagined as the ultimate freedom year basically turned about to be a stripping away of people, places, and things that shaped my story and helped define the context to who I am.
People I care deeply about left and moved away in droves. Concepts that I understood as truth were shattered. My sense of home was continually challenged. Roles and responsibilities shifted and changed. And I got to the end of 2015 feeling beat up, run over, and completely burned out.
Naturally, the last word I wanted to embrace for the coming year was aftermath. It seemed that it was far too intense, way over my head, the very head I was having a difficult time lifting and keeping up. But I knew it was my word, so I dug in.
Turns out, I learned that aftermath is actually a beautiful, expectant word. And it takes on a couple of meanings. Aftermath was at first an agricultural term, which means “a second plowing,” mowing over a portion of crop that has already been mowed to make it the very best it can be. Aftermath, when translated into Greek, means something along the lines of directing or redirecting your mind towards something.
So I guess if you put both of those together, you have a definition that encourages redirecting your mind to something that is at the best it can be. Aftermath. Who knew it could be so encouraging.
One day in early January this year, I went for a run for a specific purpose – think about the mental picture of all the ways aftermath shows up in a forest fire. And of course because I do my best thinking on a run or in the shower, I hit the pavement. So here’s what came to me when I thought of the aftermath of a forest fire on my January 13th run…
When the dust settles, everything appears much clearer than before or during the fire.
However, all of it looks much different – the landscape looks new, and there aren’t any trails blazed. It almost looks like a blank slate.
There is growth of new things and new places. That new growth is bold-looking compared to the blank slate. It’s a stark contrast to what was there before.
Newness flocks to it – new plants, new animals, new weather, new people.
There is an awe of what was there in the past in contrast to what is there now.
Coming off a year where I lost so much, the last thing I wanted to do was trust that this year was going to turn out for my good, that it was going to be different and more hopeful that 2015 let itself be for me. I wanted to instead take some control over the what’s and the where’s and the how’s of my new year.
But I didn’t. And I couldn’t. I didn’t have the capacity to control because I was so burned out from the year before that I was at a place I could just simply show up for my life. Nothing more.
Simply showing up for life. What a basic, yet profound way of living. Open-handed and open-hearted living that sometimes we have to choose, but sometimes we’re given no other choice.
Let me tell you what that open-handed, open-hearted living is leaving me with in 2016 though.
Clarity on who I am and where I’m going. Since the dust settled, it’s incredibly clear to me the person I’m becoming and the person I was made to be.
Permission to create. My blank slate means I have fewer expectations, fewer notions of the way things should be, and more anticipation for what could and might be.
Freedom in safety. I didn’t realize how paralyzed I was by my safety needs until this year, and this year also brought a deep sense of freedom to run and run fully in the direction I’m headed.
Everything is new. And it’s more beautiful that I could have created myself. New places, new relationships, new rhythms, new beliefs about myself and others, new growth. It’s the classic story that says, “If you would have asked me even five months ago if my life would look like it does now, I would have laughed in your face.” And that’s the absolute truth.
And because of that, I’m sitting here at 5:30 in the morning in awe of what’s unfolding in my life.
So here’s what I know to be true about trust. It comes when we show up fully for our own lives, when we can give up on controlling it, and when we can let go of the expectations we have for it to be perfect. Because life wasn’t meant to be perfect, but it does have the capacity to be beautiful if we let it.
Trust comes when we can offer up and respond with grace in the seasons that don’t make sense.
And it comes when we can grasp the backwards, upside-down concept that even the worst, most confusing things can be used for the good of our becoming.
So trust today. Trust who you are and trust the path you’re on. It’s not a mistake and it’s not without intention. It’s purposeful for you and for the people around you. All you are required to do is show up for it, because the aftermath of it all can be one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen.