Progress and Trust

Posted February 2, 2009

A telephone was installed in the White House in 1870, but not on the president’s desk. For fifty-one years, the presidents of the most advanced country in the world had to go out into the hall to use the single White House phone. The can opener was invented half a century after the tin can was invented. The neon sign was invented in France in 1910, but it wasn’t known in America until 1923, when its first appearance stopped traffic in Los Angeles. Modern technology may be amazing, but at times its progress has been glacially slow.

We marvel at our awesomely rapid technological progress today, as we take for granted the availability of even handheld global-reaching mobile videophones that operate via satellite and were undreamed of only a few years ago. However, progress hasn’t always been that brisk.

Like technology, our lives in general, and our spiritual growth in particular, may have spurts of progress with periods of stagnation, like sporadically congested freeway traffic. Yet we always expect to reach our destination, regardless of long or short periods of retardation in our progress.

Sometimes our progress seems to be retarded because our visibility is limited, when the Lord hides from us his long-range plans. It is especially at these interludes of confusion that our trust in his guidance is challenged. In air travel we trust the pilot or navigator to get us to our destination, even while we fly through blinding clouds or through the darkness of night. God is a very experienced pilot, and we have no choice but to trust him to make our progress sure, even if we have to fly through air turbulence while progressing.

At times, we ourselves are forced to navigate through unnerving situations, as when we drive a car through a fog bank. Our trust is even more challenged as a motorist in such a situation than as a passenger in a plane. The road signs are there, but can’t be seen easily. When life’s road signs are not easily visible in the fog, we must trust that the Lord will lift the fog in time for us to see the road signs that will direct us to what he wants us to do with our lives. As we keep moving forward, the signs will be seen more clearly, and we can then peer through the fog bank for the next road sign without anxiety.

Trust enables us to be lovingly and actively open to God in his constant, ever-loving desire to improve us, in and through all of life’s vicissitudes. When we learn to trust we learn to accept ourselves as small acorns, knowing that we will grow. We must keep in mind that spiritual growth, even when it is slow, is still progress. We are tiny acorns that are designed by the Creator to survive drought and battering storms until we reach the full status of mighty oaks; in order to do so, all that is required is that we keep our ground-that is, stay rooted in Christ. 

Fr. John Hampsch, “Pathways of Trust