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Devotion: Trust

Last week, the National Lutheran Choir traveled around the Midwest sharing a program of "Psalms and Spirituals." One of our bass sections members, Matt Olson, shared this devotion with the choir. How do you define trust? And how do you apply that definition to the people and communities of people in your life?

2015 was a year busy year in the business world for mergers and acquisitions! Many of you know the company I work for wasn't left out in this fury of activity. Our company of 40-ish people was acquired last March by a Fortune 150 multinational corporation of 65,000 people. The integration process over the last year has certainly been an educational experience!

One emphasis of this acquiring company is building a happy, engaged workforce. How, then, would such a large organization measure this? Well, they hire an outside company to create and administer an engagement survey, of course. Each employee is HIGHLY encouraged to participate in this anonymous survey and the results are aggregated, reviewed at all levels of management, and disseminated out to every team. At each level these results are reviewed, discussed, and action plans are developed to address the weak areas. This annual cadence is costly, but the process itself gives employees buy-in, it helps build TRUST.

Currently, our company is at the point in this process where we review the survey results and develop plans to develop the weakest areas for growth. As you might imagine in a survey like this, there were quite a few questions about things like: how you trust your supervisor; trusting your operating company; trusting your colleagues. It was incredibly revealing in the discussion among our team how differing the word 'trust' was interpreted.

The cynic in me can't help but define trust in what is perhaps a cold emotionless state. With this lens, trust is boiled down to a state of having the events in your life match expectations. This kind of trust is encountered all the time:
-I trust that I contribute a great amount of value to the company, but if they don't agree, I have a resume and network of colleagues available; just in case!
-I trust that the other driver is going to stop at the red light. But, just in case, I have side curtain airbags and a 5-star crash rated vehicle.
-I trust the most nefarious individuals in my life because I expect lies, deception and self-centeredness. Because I've expected it, I've planned for it.

Come to think of it, by this definition, I guess you could say I trust Donald Trump. Maybe that's how all those poll respondents are interpreting those questions ...

I don't like where this is going. Maybe it's time for a pivot in my thought process.

Spiritual trust is a completely different experience. 

If you've ever conducted, you'll know there's this momentary gap from the ictus of your conducted downbeat, to the point where you first hear the ensemble's entrance. There's a HUGE amount of trust in that moment. The conductor trusts that the group is going to come in. If the group doesn't come in, you're just a crazy person waving your hands in front of a crowd.

There's trust, WITHOUT A BACKUP PLAN, in all the relationships we spend our lives building. We don't have a backup plan if the choir fails to come in. We (hopefully) don't have a back-up plan if a spouse or partner violates our trust. This lack of a backup plan is pivotal to this variety of trust because it often accompanies situations completely out of our control. This cosmic, spiritual trust between humans and God is demonstrated in numerous places in our music, by numerous individuals living in situations outside their control. 

I'm particularly struck the psalmist David's manifestation (and Bernstein's incarnation) that comes together in Psalm 23 of the Chichester Psalms. Psalm 23 is a series of Declarative Statements of unwavering trust. "Even though I walk through the Valley of Death, I will fear NO evil. For YOU are with me!" This creed is beautifully juxtaposed against Psalm 2, which speaks of "trust" in the consistent nature of a broken humanity. Humans will wage war; neighbors build-up arms trusting there will be the inevitable conflict. Even when the lyrical melody of Psalm 23 eventually overtakes the psalm of war, it seems like Bernstein infers its return is inevitable when the warring melody returns at the end of the movement. He seems to say, the only trust without a backup plan is a trust rooted in God.


Lord, you are indeed our truest Shepard. You leave nothing for us to want. You let us lie in green pastures and walk along calm waters, all while nations continually rage among us. The people have their minds set on vain, earthly things. The Kings conspire for the destruction of your people and world, to further their own selfish desires. Although we walk through this Valley of Shadows and Death, we have nothing to fear with you by our side. Your Goodness and Mercy will be with us through all the days of our lives.

Behold, then, 
how good and pleasant it is,
for us to dwell together with you,
For all eternity.