“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
Lyrics from Leonard Cohen in his song, ‘Anthem‘
As children we let our curiosity take us into unknown places to discover more about our world. If we were given freedom to explore, we learnt to take risks, if punished, to stay within known parameters. We also watched our parents make life choices which gave us our own feelings of what was possible or not. These feelings and behaviour patterns remain deeply engrained in us and as adults we are still either more cautious or are risk takers.
Our unique and chosen picture of life still affects how we engage with the world. Our busy daily reality put together with our inner, idealized picture of what life should look like, causes tensions and pressures within us which are expressed externally. Will we or won’t we get what we need?
It is easy to get into idealization of how things should be – the perfect relationship, perfect lifestyle, perfect job, etc. We’ve been so schooled in needing to be something that we feel tempted to aim for this as our goal – but we find that since it is an artificial reality it also becomes our judge. We end up finding it harder and harder to sustain a perfectionism that actually is inhuman. Our souls hunger for reality so we simply do not thrive on this.
With all our working against failure, being significant only if we get to the top, we struggle to simply let things be what they are. But God, who walks with us in our reality, uses our messy humanity as a means for His grace. He wants us to “forget our perfect offering”, and He likes it far more when we colour outside the lines, when we’re real, not straining to prove that we’re perfect or valuable. When we let His light get through our cracks we find that He never puts us down, but wants to do a far deeper shaping of our very character. He knows that it’s in our struggle, as we embrace our imperfection, that we will become real.
In our relationships it’s easy to say we will trust if the other perfectly meets our requirements. But in the face of the reality of imperfection, how can trust develop? We will need to relearn the meaning of trust in such a way that it does not depend on external expectations. Trustworthiness in ourselves and others should not be idealized. For trust in any relationship is a commitment, what we put in, not an expectation of what we’ll get out. We will need to include the fact that people do mess up and not just withdraw because we’ve been hurt before, with, “I’ll never trust anyone every again.”
It’s so easy to set people up then, to discount and diminish them, when they’re not doing it ‘right’. We make life hard for ourselves and others if we keep up our high and absolute standards.
Both sides of any relationship need to commit to the process of being more honest, to tell each other what is expected, and not turn away before dialoging so that trust can be negotiated. Each person has a piece of the truth. Each needs to bring a different part of the puzzle for the bigger picture to become evident, for the good of all involved.
There’s a proverb that one can do for one, but two can do for ten, because what’s between us is so powerful. When we accept who we are together, the potential is indescribable. Trust in another is never a static thing nor is it something that just happens when we wish for it. It is something that needs to be built; it’s a work in progress.
Growing up we all experienced trust broken. This may have been because we misinterpreted events and made assumptions in our vulnerability. Our wounding makes us hunt for beliefs about ourselves and others, which may or may not be true. It helps so much not to stay isolated in these beliefs, but to allow the light in. As we tell our version of the story, we allow others to help us by giving further insight into our lives.
God knows we’ve all been let down and do get betrayed by others. He wants to restore and rebuild our broken trust in ourselves and others. It’s a skill we’re learning with many mistakes along the way. It doesn’t help to bail out and judge another. We will need to connect to engage in the ongoing process of building trust because in what is between us, there is so much potential.