I want to begin this morning with a game called Jenga. Are you familiar with it? A Jenga game consists of 54 small wood blocks. To set up the game you stack all of the blocks in levels of three placed next to each other and at a right angle to the previous level. Once the tower is built, the person who stacked the tower plays first. Jenga consists of taking one block on a turn from any level of the tower (except the one below an incomplete top level), and placing it on the top level in order to complete it. Players may use only one hand at a time; either hand may be used, but only one hand may touch the tower at any time. Players may tap a block to find a loose one. The turn ends when the next player touches the tower, or after ten seconds, whichever occurs first. The game ends when the tower falls — completely or if any block falls from the tower. The person who loses is the one who made the tower fall.
April 19, 2015
Proverbs 20:6, Trust is the Glue of Life
Pastor Doug Scalise, Brewster Baptist Church
In contrast to the game of Jenga, is a chessboard like this one I made in school in Industrial Arts when I was 12-years-old. Like Jenga, this board is also made of small blocks of wood, most of which are the same size. But there’s a big difference between my chessboard which has stayed together for almost 40 years and the Jenga pieces that fell down moments ago. The difference is the glue. Good strong glue has held this board together for decades; without glue, the Jenga blocks fall pretty easily.
Steven Covey who wrote the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, declared, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Today as we continue our series on The Elements of Healthy Relationships, we’re going to talk about how Trust is the Glue of Life. Trust is the foundational principle that holds all relationships. Proverbs 20:6 says somewhat longingly, “Many proclaim themselves loyal, but who can find one worthy of trust?” Think for a moment about this question: Who is someone in your life that you trust? Try to picture their face or even write down their name. Why do you trust that person? A simple, common answer is because they’ve proven trustworthy. What do we mean by that? Usually people we trust have earned our trust by their consistent actions over time. Our experiences as children can be critically important in how easy or how difficult it will be for us to trust people as adults. If as children the adults and other people around us earn our trust by their consistent actions over time we will find it easier to trust other people. If we experience love, care, nurture, dependability, reliability, consistency, and support these help to make up the ingredients with which the Glue of Trust is composed. Those of us who are parents and grandparents have a hugely important role in whether our children will trust other people and that is something we should be mindful of all the time. The same is true for teachers, coaches, and all who work with children and young people. Sadly if we or any children experience deprivation, inappropriate expressions of anger or abuse, harshness, or betrayal, then it can be harder for us to trust others as we get older, but we can learn to do so.
Trust is “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” Trust is so important for relationships because we need to know that we can rely on, depend on, count on someone in order to have a healthy relationship. This is true of God and of other people. Just as importantly, we need to be the kind of person that other people can trust, rely on, depend on, and count on. Trust creates a sense of comfort, stability, and security that we know what to expect from someone else. In the same way, when we prove ourselves worthy of trust, it creates a sense of comfort, stability, and security for other people. One of the biggest hit songs in Motown history was The Jackson Five’s fourth consecutive # 1 hit in 1970, the ballad “I’ll Be There.” The lyrics say in part, “Whenever you need me, I’ll be there I’ll be there to protect you, with an unselfish love I respect you Just call my name and I’ll be there.” I’ll Be There was a big hit for several reasons, one of which is the sentiment of the words which communicate, “You can trust me.” We don’t create trust or a big hit by singing or living this way, “Whenever you need me, maybe I’ll be there, but maybe I won’t, I’m not sure. I can’t commit right now, it’s not you, it’s me. I can’t guarantee I’ll protect you or your name or reputation. I might talk about you behind your back. You might not even be safe in my presence. My interest in you is simply based on what I can get out of you and how you can help and serve me.” Needless to say, that is not a recipe for building trust, nor I suspect for a #1 smash hit, but you never know.
Trusting someone means we believe they’ll do what’s in our best interest. We believe they’re looking out for us. We trust someone or something to act in the way they’re supposed to act, to honor their commitments and their word and to be dependable. Without trust relationships, families, communities, and even nations fail and fall. Without trust a society ceases to be a safe and prosperous place to live. Yet, because human beings are selfish and flawed, the reality is we do break trust sometimes with other people and other people will do so with us. There’s an old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Behind that is the idea that when someone has failed or fooled us one time, we should always be on our guard after that. While I understand the thinking behind that old saying, but it doesn’t really help us to learn how to rebuild trust when trust has been broken.
Like the game of Jenga, trust is built slowly over time, but it can be lost in a moment. This can happen between spouses, friends, family members, even co-workers. When trust is violated or broken, the result is painful and depending on the circumstances, often embarrassing. Quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football when he was a freshman at Texas A & M. Last April he was a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Brown’s but he had a rough first year in NFL marked by a lack of focus and commitment and a poor work ethic. He played badly and has risked squandering a successful and lucrative future by his poor decision making off the field. He just finished 10 weeks in rehab and expressed remorse and acknowledged he has a long way to go to win back people’s trust. In a statement released on Friday, he said, “I owe private apologies to a lot of people that I disappointed but a very public one to the Browns organization and the people I let down. I take full responsibility for my actions and it’s my intention to work very hard to regain everyone’s trust and respect. I understand that will take time and will only happen through what I do and not what I say.” That’s an illustration of what happens when trust is broken. Broken trust in any relationship leads to hurt, anger, fear, and confusion. It can lead to lost opportunities. Trust is rebuilt slowly through our actions over time. God created us for relationships based on trust. In Genesis, the very first people we hear about, Adam and Eve. violated the trust that God placed in them. They didn’t do what they were asked to do even though they had been given everything they needed. Part of why some people have trouble trusting God is that key people in their lives have not been trustworthy; they haven’t kept their word, honored their commitments, or proven reliable. In “Rebuilding Trust: Preparing to Begin Again” Lloyd Elder lays out 10 steps we can take when trust has been broken in an important relationship.
1) Follow biblical instructions related to repairing broken relationships: take responsible initiative, seek reconciliation, ask for and extend forgiveness, engage in changed behavior. Reconciliation with God is the most empowering environment for restoration between us frail human beings.
2) Rebuild trust, by being trustworthy and trusting others, communicate clearly, be honest and consistent, and take responsibility.
3) Reflect on the broken trust. Begin from the ground up, laying brick by brick. Seek to answer a two-fold question: “How has trust been broken, and what is my responsibility for the break?” What is the exact nature of the broken trust? Think it over; write down your thoughts. When did it start? Over what? How has it developed over time? What was the critical event, or, “the final straw that broke the camel’s back?” What have I contributed to the damaged trust?
4) Show mutual respect. Establish mutual expectations and engage together in new beginnings by asking the question, “How did we get to this point? What can we do about our relationship?”
5) Lay the first brick, forgiving and being forgiven: “I’m sorry for my role in our troubled relationship. Will you forgive me?” Too often people wrongly believe when forgiving they’re accepting the sinful act. No sin is right, but every sin can be forgiven. Forgiveness releases the burden and lets you move on, free from the weight of an unforgiving heart. When struggling to forgive, remember your own sins. From Christ’s act of love, we too can learn to forgive, just as we have been forgiven.
6) Express your feelings, and pay attention to how others truly feel about the relationship. Do not manipulate; valued relationships can be fragile, so care for them consistently.
7) Communicate, communicate, communicate: stay focused on the troubled trust issue at hand; be clear with truth, facts, and feelings; give and get significant feedback; and monitor progress or the lack of it. Always keep communication two-way.
8) Make restitution, if that is possible, for damage done by the broken trust. When we’ve taken the security of trust away from another, we have to figure out what we can contribute toward restoring it?
9) Change your behavior patterns, from negative to positive. “Measure me, not by new promises, but by my behavior and actions.” Stephen R. Covey affirms: “You can’t talk yourself out of problems you behave yourself into.”
10) Be patient; give time for the process of rebuilding trust to create change. Back away if necessary. Wounds of the spirit and of relationships must heal from the inside out.
Gandhi said, “Among the most essential qualities of the human spirit are to trust oneself and build trust with others.” In Jenga and in life, we’re the ones who lose when the tower of trust falls. We win when we trust God, when we prove ourselves trust worthy and when we’re willing to forgive others who’ve let us down and to seek to re-build our relationship and our mutual trust. We can trust again. While trusting makes us vulnerable, if we choose not to trust, we can miss out on so much joy God desires for us. We were created for relationships based on both trust and forgiveness. We may move slower in trusting others, but don’t let fear steal your joy and imprison you in anger and hurt. You can trust again … with God’s help.
Tomorrow is Patriot’s Day which is a holiday in Massachusetts when we remember the midnight ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes who rode to Lexington and Dr. Samuel Prescott who was the only one who made it to Concord warning the town’s people that the Regulars were coming. Imagine if the residents of Lexington and Concord had said on April 19, 1775, “We don’t trust you’re telling the truth.” Tomorrow is also the Boston Marathon and over 30,000 runners will travel just over 26 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. The fastest runners will do so in just over two hours and one of them will be Wesley Korir of Kenya who won the race in 2012. As a boy in Kenya, Wesley would run 5 miles each way to school, often running home for lunch or to do errands for his mother. An article by Jim Ferstle states, “Korir is a running evangelist. He literally wears his faith on his sleeve. Bible quotes are prominent on his sweatshirt and white and blue T-shirt. It’s his faith that is at the core of everything he does.
The seed of his faith was planted at home by his mother and been reinforced by others in his life, such as his college coach at the University of Louisville, Ron Mann. It is what sustains him in times of adversity like when he had to flee the ethnic violence in Kenya in 2008 and when he has encountered challenges in life. “Most of the time human beings will tell you that you are not good enough,” says Korir. People are always telling you what you can’t do. God, on the other hand, encourages him to be optimistic, to see the good in others, and, he says, “feel at peace” with himself. He faces life’s challenges knowing that he has someone in his corner, a God he can trust no matter what the situation. Korir has learned to trust God and to trust in himself and that has made all the difference in his life. When he left Kenya in 2008 he swore he would never return. Yet after returning to Kenya following his 2012 win in Boston he ended up running as an Independent candidate for Parliament and amazingly he won and is working to improve conditions in his home country.
Trust is the Glue of Life. Trust is the foundational principle that holds all relationships. As you work through trust issues, remember that even if everyone else fails you, your Savior, Jesus Christ, will not. Trusting in Him and His promises found in the Bible, you can learn to respond to His undeserved love and forgiveness by offering those same gifts in your relationships.
Let’s pray: “God we thank you that you are our rock and our fortress and a God we can trust. We thank you for sending Jesus who will never leave us or forsake us and who even died on the cross that the trust we broke could be forgiven and we could be in renewed relationship with you and other people. Help those of us who have a relationship that has been damaged by trust that was broken to be able to extend or receive forgiveness. Enable us to be trustworthy people so that other people can rely and depend upon us and know that they’re safe and secure in our presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for Discussion or Reflection
Who is someone in your life that you trust? Why do you trust that person?
How would you define trust? Why is trust so important for relationships?
When trust is broken how do we learn to trust again? What steps can we take to rebuild trust?
How do we live consistently as trustworthy people? What habits, behaviors, and choices do we need to practice or make to be trustworthy?
What would you say to someone who asked if you trust in God? What difference does trusting God make in your life?