Trust Is the Law
The word “faith” has been so abused, sometimes it’s better to use a synonym like “commitment”, “loyalty” or “trust”.
It’s been my pleasure to work in the field of pastoral psychology for most of my adult life. It’s not so much what I do as a major element informing my Kingdom service. Children are one of the more interesting age groups, largely because they are the simplified version of adults, consciously expressing what almost everyone older hides from themselves.
If you encounter enough children in institutional settings, you get to where you can make intelligent guesses about their home life. It’s downright comical how parents react when children bluntly state what their neurotic parents try so hard to hide. Children are a sort of mirror for their parents. You’ve probably seen that poster, “A child who lives with…” expressing some popular myths about what forms a child’s character. As with all things born of Western society, there are elements of truth, and some major mistakes. My Westernized training in pastoral psychology echoed much of that mythology, and it’s taken some doing to correct the myths.
It still amazes me how blind some parents are. I’d be the last to suggest kids are naturally wonderful. The whole point of civilization is restraining bad impulses, but it’s pretty easy for any society to develop confusion about what is immoral versus merely inconvenient for parents, particularly in the context of that society. Here in America I’ve encountered plenty of regional subcultures which could gain a lot from the proverb: Less is more.
Given my limited experience, the first thing I usually consider in pastoral counseling is the issue of trust. Christian mysticism says you can’t trust anyone, but that comes in a context. It’s in the context you learn to trust God, the ultimate leap of faith among humans. On the way there, a human can be hit with all sorts of influences which make it so hard to do. What makes Christian mysticism easier to embrace is also what makes for good child rearing. This thing is consistent through and through. Children have to learn an appropriate level of trust in their parents before they can trust God. They start with instinctive blind trust, but it never ceases to amaze me how parents screw this up within the first few weeks of life, and it gets steadily worse from there.
Parents who are edgy and nervous about all the fussy details of life raise fearful whiny brats. These grow into the most unpleasant adults. Meanwhile, these parents are dealing with children they can hardly bear, for the precise reason the children express openly what the parents fear, and hate about themselves.
The question is not trust versus cynicism, but learning where trust belongs. The single most obvious element in any brand of mysticism is detachment from this world. If your expectations are false, you’ll never find what little peace is possible. The Christian part of Christian Mysticism says this world is terminally broken, and we shouldn’t expect much. The Laws of God do offer a modicum of material hope, but all that serves primarily to indicate things far more important which are much harder to understand.
In their defense, most parents get it wrong because someone did them wrong. Understanding this does not require my peculiar background, but correcting it is hardly so obvious. I can’t help parents teach their children trust until I help the parents heal their own damaged trust. That means getting them comfortable with trust correctly informed and correctly applied. It requires opening in their minds whole new universe, utterly separate from this one, and learning that one is trustworthy, and this one is not. It means learning almost everything upon which they have focused is fake, untrustworthy, and everything they’ve been taught to want is unavailable. It requires de-Westernizing them.
A child wholly of this world is a sad thing to behold.