Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Surprises of Trust

I'm currently reading a book that a coworker loaned to me. He is a spiritual guy, and often when he finds a book that touches his soul, he asks me to read it, too, so we can talk about it.

The book is Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God, by Brennan Manning. It's a short book, less than two hundred pages, but it's very profound in presenting the premise that trust in God is the key to a happy life.

As I read, there have been a couple of surprises. In the early pages, I learned that the author attended seminary at my college. Since my school was a tiny Catholic institution tucked far away in rural mountains, that was somewhat startling. I'm in Chapter 10 now, which includes an excerpt from another book, Balancing Heaven and Earth by Robert Johnson.

It's the story of a monk who had been a tumbler in the circus before he joined the monastery. He was treated as a misfit by his fellow monks. As soon as I read this description, I recognized and remembered the story. My father had told me this tale as a bedtime story when I was a child.

The outcast monk was excluded from many of the formal ceremonies in the monastery. So each week during high mass, he would descend to the basement crypt, where there stood a statue of the Blessed Mother. Standing before the Virgin's statue, the monk would perform his circus act. It was his only talent and all he had to offer.

One of the other monks grew suspicious and one night followed him to the crypt to watch. He then informed the monastery's abbot and brought him to witness the next week. The two observers saw that at the end of the act, the Blessed Mother's statue came to life. She stepped down and blessed the monk. The stunned abbot turned to the informer and said, "More real worship goes on here than takes place upstairs."

Of course, Dad's retelling was a bit more dramatic. In my bedtime story, the tumbler became a juggler monk. He was struggling valiantly to complete his juggling act with perspiration flowing into his eyes, making it difficult for him to see. The Virgin, when she stepped down, took her mantle and wiped his brow so that he could finish successfully. Perhaps my father took dramatic license so that a four-year-old would remember the story more than half a century later. Well, what do you know, Dad--it worked.

So in reading this little book about trusting God, with a couple of chapters still ahead, I've had two very personal surprises. C.S. Lewis writes about being Surprised by Joy. Fair enough, but I think someone is trying to tell me that trust can be equally surprising.