When I was five years old, we lived in a rented house in Woodinville. It had a basement with a door that could be accessed from the outside. One of the walls of the basement was a dirt wall. About four feet up on the dirt wall, a section had been cut out, probably about a foot deep and high and about six feet long. In that space were stacks of dynamite. My parents didn’t put the dynamite there; it came with the house. The dynamite was corroding and sweating. Do you know what it means when dynamite sweats? It means the materials to stabilize the nitroglycerine are breaking down and the sweat is actually nitroglycerine escaping. Do you know what can happen with unstable nitroglycerine? It can just explode! I guess my parents didn’t know any of that, because you know what they did about it? They told my brother and me to stay out of the basement. I remember my mom actually telling me, “Tammy, you and your brother need to stay out of the basement, okay, because there’s dynamite in there.”
I think about that dynamite sometimes. I think about it when I realize I’m walking and talking carefully around something—something that makes me afraid that I may lose a friendship if I share how I really think or feel or if I need to admit to something I’ve done wrong. I am learning to recognize that these secrets are dynamite that I’m living with and it’s only a matter of time before they blow, unless I do something about them.
Any relationship not based on trust will either implode or explode. Trust means taking the chance on getting hurt. When Rick and I got married, I didn’t truly trust Rick. I could name some reasons from my earlier experiences of why I had trust issues, but none of those were based on the truth of who Rick is. Rick is the most trustworthy person I’ve ever known. But because of who I am, I didn’t trust him completely with my heart. I had a line that I wouldn’t let anyone cross. That worked okay in superficial relationships but it does not work in a marriage. It’s funny, but I never admitted this truth to even myself. I believed I trusted him. I guess I trusted him more than I ever had trusted anyone else, so in my mind, that was full trust. More or less.
We had been married about six years when I had to face the reality that I was living with dynamite. We were on a road trip and I don’t remember how the conversation got there, but Rick said to me, “You don’t trust me.” And I immediately answered, “Yes I do.” And he said, “No, you don’t”. And I got angry. How dare he tell me that I don’t trust him? So I turned and sulked against the car door, looking out into the night at the sparse lights from houses and the stars. That dynamite was beginning to sweat. I smoldered for a bit and then I talked with God about it. I knew I didn’t trust Rick with all of me.
“I want to trust Rick, everything in me wants to trust him. Why can’t I trust him?” And God spoke to my heart: “Because you don’t trust me.” His words cut deep and I denied them, saying, “Of course I trust you. You wouldn’t be unfaithful; you wouldn’t use what you know about me against me. You wouldn’t wreck everything we’ve built by cheating or leaving me.” But all my words didn’t change what God spoke to me. I was left with knowing that my lack of trust in Rick was a symptom of my lack of trust in God. It was up to me to do something about it.
I had to make a decision. Would I trust God fully with my life and my heart? If so, I must completely trust Rick. Not because Rick is perfect, but because God is. And giving myself fully and being vulnerable to Rick makes me fully vulnerable to God, so that He can do the necessary work in my heart and life. It doesn’t mean there will never be pain, or even that no one will ever betray me. It just means that I am trusting God to grow me the way He sees fit. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” I had to hand over the dynamite, the self-defenses I stored.
That was many years ago. I am so glad Rick helped me face the dynamite I was living with so that not only did our marriage get really great, but all of my relationships deepened, because I didn’t have to keep people at a distance. I learned to just be me. And maybe everyone can’t take me (they can’t), but that’s okay because my worth is in God, not in other people or even myself. I’ve made some major mistakes (sins!), and yet He is faithful still and continues to love me and help me grow beyond those sins, which of course are betrayals to Him. I am the only one in my relationship with God that has done anything that should cause trust issues. God has been completely trustworthy, and I am still growing in my relationship with Him. I am so glad that He doesn’t give up on me.
The thing that I discovered when I finally took that chance, is how much deeper and more true and more beautiful all my relationships became—with God and with everyone else.
I still catch myself sometimes, trying to hold back and then God reminds me that any relationship not based on trust is really no relationship at all. I am so far from perfect, and I want people to know that. I want them to know that my only hope is Jesus.
– Tammy Bailey
Tammy Bailey serves at Hillcrest Church with her husband, Rick. Although her kids are grown, she is still learning and growing in her relationship with Jesus. She is an awed child of God.