I trusted Brock to remodel the house. He showed me his temple recommend and talked about his missionary work and explained what he would do to make our disintegrating rambler livable and loveable, and we took out a loan for $30,000 and gave him all of it before he began. I wonder now how a being with a functioning brain in this century could have made so mindless a move. But he had a temple recommend and had been on a mission. And I was young, and the sheltered existence I had endured growing up in Logan, Utah, had never prepared me for professional predators. My wife and I trusted him, and paid him in full, in advance.
He began the work with substantial zeal, and we watched the growing expanse of new siding with anticipation. Then his visits diminished in frequency and our letters and calls went unanswered and finally the work stopped. The next thing we knew, he was in Costa Rica or Texas or some other foreign country, and we were obliged to borrow more money and find a new contractor to get the work finished. In all the years since I have never given my trust so freely again. I want someone’s name somewhere with penalties and guarantees and late fees written into the contract, and I want the whole arrangement notarized, with me holding most of the money until the work is done. Brock made it difficult for me to trust anyone fully or freely.
But the most important lesson I have learned about trust, I did not learn from Brock. At the same time Lydia and I were agonizing over the debacle of our half-finished remodeling, my oldest son was teaching me what trust is really all about. He taught me in a lesson that lasted only an instant, and he taught it so well that the message burned itself into my bones.
Chris liked to jump. He walked early (he never crawled till kindergarten when someone taught him to crawl to help him learn to read). And one day in his infancy he climbed on a chair while I was lying on the floor. I held out my arms and said, “Jump, Chris,” and he did. I caught him and he laughed. Then he wanted to show Mom. She came and he repeated his leap and laughed some more, and she hugged him, so he showed her once more. We tried it again and again, and as the weeks and months passed, he graduated from chairs to the kitchen table and finally to the top of the old upright, a Zeck Standard Quality piano so tall that he could barely perch on top without hitting his head on the ceiling.
He leapt to me from the railing of the front porch when he was four, from the top of the car when he was five, and from the shed roof when he was six. And I caught him. The frequency of his airborne adventures decreased with the passing years. He had less interest, and he weighed more, so my enthusiasm was tempered by three back surgeries and my regard for the integrity of my spinal column.
I never missed him. I never came close to missing him. This was due as much to luck as to skill. I have scars enough on my body to prove that I am not infallible. But the years passed and every time he jumped, I caught him.
So, it was this kind of confidence that made possible the thing that happened. He and I were at Uncle Alma’s for a family home evening, playing in the back yard. Johnny Carson called the space behind Alma Heaton’s house the most exciting back yard in America. It probably is. Chris had climbed into a tree that supported one end of a platform at the back of the yard. He was about 12-14 feet off the ground. From that landing he could swing out over the lawn on a rope, or bounce to the ground and back on thick bungee cords. I was not paying attention to my 8-year-old. I had watched him climb, decided he was safe, and turned around to observe another child at play. Suddenly I heard his voice: “Catch, Dad!”
I knew from his inflection that he was already in the air! This was not a call for preparation. This was a call for action. “Catch, Dad!” I whirled and he hit my chest laughing, wrapping his little boy arms around my neck while I scrabbled backward, trying desperately to secure him and to retain my balance. When I was in control, I set him down and he dashed off. I watched him leap to grab the handle of a pulley that stretched across the yard, and bowed my head in relief that he was safe.
And then I remembered a scripture; my wife’s favorite verses from Proverbs 3:5,6. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart . . .” and “lean not unto thine own understanding.” Chris jumped to me when I wasn’t looking. He saw me standing below, knew he was safe, and threw himself into space. I would have made much more sense for him to stand in the tree wondering: is he looking? Is he ready? Will he miss me or drop me? Am I too high? But none of that occurred. He simply trusted, with all his heart, and jumped, knowing that his father would never let him fall.
From time to time, I find myself in the tree, elevated there by financial struggles and less than perfect parenting and employment challenges and church callings that stupefy me. I know that the Father has said He will catch me and carry me (Isaiah 46:3,4); I know that He has never let me fall before. But I hesitate, not certain that I have the trust to throw myself into the haven of His arms without the certainty of his gaze upon me and the assurance of his waiting arms to rescue me. I sit in the tree, leaning on my own understanding. “Trust me,” He is saying. “Do it my way,” He invites. “I’m here, and I will not let you fall” He promises.
“Except ye become converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). I think I am beginning to become converted, but I have not yet become as a little child. I am not yet as trusting of my Father as Chris was of his. I am not yet able to throw myself into His invisible, inevitable arms because of my trust in Him and His promises. But I want to.
With all my heart, I want to.