For some reason, when I hear the word “opportunity,” the echo bouncing through my mind is a phrase uttered often by the mother of my first boyfriend: “It’s an opportunity to trust.” OTT for short in her vernacular. Exactly the opportunity I don’t want to have.
For years I felt like it was trite or even smug for someone living a comfortable American upper middle-class life to talk to me about opportunities to trust. When my son got croup in rural Tanzania in the middle of the night—in a place where you don’t drive at night, where the hot water heater is heated in the morning by a wood fire, where you can only (only!) pray in the face of illness, not pray while rushing to the ER or talking to the pediatrician’s nurses line at 2 AM—I didn’t like to hear about opportunities to trust. When we lived in a conservative neighborhood in a Muslim country with inconsistent power and water and temperatures hotter than Arizona, I didn’t want to hear about opportunities to trust. I didn’t want to acknowledge that the anxiety in my life was just as out of line with the truth of God’s loving providence as the anxiety of those in more comfortable situations. I didn’t want to nod that yes, my fears and worries were just as much the fruit of an untrusting heart. I longed to have the right—the right!—to fear, to dabble in anxieties, to worry myself to sleep. Because I lived a life on the edge, surely the words of Jesus to fear not didn’t apply. Not to me. Not to an American living where the government required armed guards to accompany foreigners everywhere. Not to a Jesus-follower living out her faith in front of Muslims. No, not to me.
As I sit in my living room of a small duplex in rural Kentucky where my husband is a graduate student in Biblical Studies, the opportunity to trust still haunts me. Not me, Lord. I just want a life that requires no trust because it’s all good. No death, no sorrow, no poverty. I don’t want this opportunity because I want to be in control. And so the good Lord lobs another one at me, asking if I might choose to trust and not rationalize this time. Chronic ear infections? Meager funds? Health insurance running out in a few months? Filling out the FAFSA for next year? Will the scholarships be enough? Do we need to move? Is there mold in this old duplex making my boys sick here? The clothes hang on her differently but opportunity reaches out the same hand, beckoning me to trust. Will I?