I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever. I will thank you forever,
because of what you have done. Psalm 52: 9
by Nancy Freeman
In the 1980s, I attended college at a small, Catholic, liberal-arts school. I became a Resident Assistant (RA), and at summer orientation, we broke into groups for a trust exercise. You probably know what I’m talking about: you fall back from standing, and three or four people link arms to catch you. My turn came. I fell backward; the group did not quite get it together and almost dropped me! I ended up just inches from the ground, albeit in the human arm net, but it was a close call. Once upright, I remember saying, “You guys almost dropped me,” to which one of the people said, with certainty, “Nah, we wouldn’t have dropped you.” Really? It felt like the ultimate irony in a trust fall. A trusting person falls back, the group fumbles, and said trusting person ends up splayed out on the ground. Oh, shoot, lost that one.
I have never forgotten the trust fall experience and, most vividly, the intense feeling of almost ending up on the ground. Sometimes, more often than I like to admit, I wonder, “Does God really love me? Will I end up on the metaphorical ground?” In those moments, when I cannot quite see God’s love, I just let go into the ultimate trust fall. No matter how I feel or how much I think I’ll end up on the ground, no matter the panic, I trust.
Three words stood out as I pondered Psalm 52: trust, love, and thank. (I grew up in the Catholic tradition and am now Episcopalian, so I have a thing for threes.) The concept of thanking God helps me trust in God’s love. It’s a big circle for me because I can see what God has done in my life, and it keeps me trusting in that love. Sometimes I feel like I am about to have an unfortunate trust fall experience, but God’s love is steadfast, unwavering, and forever.
The key for me to really rest in God’s love (or at least most of the time) is keeping a gratitude journal. When I worked at an independent bookstore in the 1990s, I witnessed the phenomenal success of Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, published in 1995. The book introduced the concept of a gratitude journal to a broad audience, although I confess that I did not see the point for myself. I felt grateful, and it was enough for me to pray or say my thankfulness to God and others. Besides, I tend to be contrarian and not jump on the bandwagon of a popular concept. Maybe it comes from my growing up years when my mother often said, “Just because everyone else wants to jump off a cliff into a lake doesn’t mean you have to.”
It took me a long time to come to the gratitude party, but luckily, there is always a party. Two years ago in a store, I saw a small, blank journal labeled Gratitude and bought it to try the concept. I loved it immediately. My new gratitude awakening may be because I am now 60, and my life feels alternately wonderful and chaotic as heck with my husband, a teenage daughter, an aging parent who lives several states away, and a burgeoning small business. And I haven’t even touched the worry I feel about the state of the world with multiple pandemics, wars, and all manner of crises. Every evening before bed, I write down at least three things from the day I am thankful for. Three is the minimum, and often, I list more. Some nights, however, I struggle to find the baseline after what feels like a crazy busy day, when the length of my to-do list resembles War and Peace. Even when I struggle, the exercise focuses me on seeing and feeling God’s love at work in my life. I trust in that love and want to thank God, as the psalmist says, “because of what you have done.”
How do you trust in God’s steadfast love? Are there significant times in your life you’ve felt God’s love hold you? In everyday life? How do you express that gratitude?