Jer. 31:21 says “Set up signposts. Make landmarks: Set your heart toward the highway . . .”NKJV
Jeremiah is quoting the Lord who tells His people to set up signposts to mark the way back to their home. I think of the barren, rocky desert of the land of Israel and imagine signposts that are made of rocks. What else would last in that environment? I like to use rocks with messages written on them to remind me of important truths.
When I wanted a thoughtful discussion on themes and life lessons found in the novels we read in my 8th grade classroom, I formed a large circle in the room with their desks. To signal the importance of seminar, I used a large rock that said “Peace”, and only the person holding the rock was allowed to speak. This actually worked; the rock was something tangible and seemed to anchor them to the procedure.
A child learns to trust based on experience; if she is hungry and is fed, she learns to trust the caregiver. The first time I took Jennifer to Mother’s Day Out was the first time I really left her for any length of time. A friend of mine was the teacher in the infants group, and when I picked up Jennifer in the afternoon my friend quickly informed me that Jennifer cried the whole day. Children need experiences in different situations to learn that parents can be trusted to take care of them.
Larry and I babysit a two and half year old every other Friday. Her mom says she now looks forward to coming; if Mom says it’s time to go to Larry and Martell’s, child says “let’s get the snacks and go”. It was a gradual learning process; she learned to trust that Mom would come back, that these two people were going to take care of her, that Martell would take care of the potty business, food, and nap. Larry would be the entertainer.
What breaks trust for children? We know of horrible things that parents do to abuse children, but there are also cases of neglect in which children never learn to trust. I know of a 16 year old who was adopted as an infant, but his adoptive family lived in a different state and had to wait for the paperwork to make its way through the bureaucracy before they took him home. The foster family thought they would help make bonding easier for the adoptive parents by not bonding with him, they took care that he would not become attached to them. What a mistake! As a result he has had an attachment disorder – he had a very difficult time bonding with anyone.
As adults we learn from relationships that some people can’t be trusted. When a job is lost, it can feel devastating because a trust is broken. Even institutions can break trust – ever heard of a church splitting? It is often from a break in trusting the leaders or the minister.
God tells us over and over in His word to trust Him. He began trusting man in the Garden of Eden. He put Adam in a beautiful garden, told him to care for it and work it, and had him name all the animals. Then God made Eve so Adam would not be alone. God’s only stipulation about the garden was a warning about eating the tree of life. He told them if they ate the fruit they would surely die. God did not warn Adam that something was going to happen that would make a difference in his and Eve’s life forever.. Why didn’t God warn them about the coming temptation? God created man and woman with everything they needed in their design AND gave them free will. John Eldredge says that God believed in Adam. He trusted Adam to make the right choice.
And as we know, Adam and Eve did not trust God once Satan planted doubt in their minds. So man began this doubting from the beginning. Notice that Adam actually did nothing – he didn’t take a risk, didn’t fight, didn’t rescue Eve. He just followed Eve’s action.
When Jeremiah is called to a prophet, he complains to God that he is only a youth. God tells him he must go wherever God sends him. “Do not be afraid for I am with you to deliver you.” God promises to rescue him. But the way God rescues in the Old Testament is not what we would expect.
- If I’m going to be rescued I don’t want it to be like Abraham. The knife was over the body of his son; he was ready to plunge it in his son’s body before God showed him the lamb.
- I don’t want to be like Joseph who sat in the Egyptian prison for years.
- I don’t want to be the Israelites who were slaves for 400 years, or to stand at the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army pushing us back to drown.
- Or wander in the desert for 40 years.
Notice a pattern here? God waits until the last minute to rescue His servants. He even abandoned His own Son. He calls us to battles when the odds are stacked against us. Trust is hard won.
Life is a Battle
This is what resonates with me about this whole idea of trust. Until I see my life as a battle – a war against my heart I won’t understand my life. God appears to abandon me. I have to believe that God’s will allows terrible things to happen to me. I understand now what our daughter, Jennifer understood at 21. Her roommate told me about a conversation they had sometime in that last year of her life. Jennifer worried because nothing really bad had ever happened to her.
The irony is just a few months later she fell off a mountain in the Cherokee National Forest. Jennifer would not see her death as something terrible because she knew where her new home would be. She went home to her Father. Her death was terrible for her friends and her family, for her fiancé, but the greatest comfort we had was the knowledge that she was truly home, her eternal home with God.
The hard thing about trust for me is that I forget. In the middle of troubles, illness, or frustrations I forget to trust in the One who promises to take care of me. I think I need a bigger rock because it’s lost on my desk. I found some river rocks at the store and wrote “Trust” on it.
I think I need a rock that is big enough for me to stump my toe. I looked everywhere in the craft stores and the home improvement stores but could not find what I needed, until a stop at Hobby Lobby. I found a beautiful ball – not a rock, but it has the verse from Bible class we had just memorized.
Put up signposts to remind you of the eternal truths that guide you on your journey home to the Father. Use rocks or posters or framed passages. We can memorize verses and sing songs to remind us, but a visual reminder helps when you are in the midst of battle.