I’m going to start today’s blog by giving you a little insight into the very strange workings of my childhood brain and how I used to follow certain formulae thinking they would keep me safe. Kids are weird eh? Well, maybe as an adult, you find yourself doing the same?
Don’t laugh, but several of these formulae, or ‘rituals’ took place in the bathroom for some reason. Do you remember those bath racks that were popular in the 70s? They went across the bath to keep your soap and other bits and bobs within reach. Our rack was ‘avocado’ to match our ‘avocado’ bathroom suite….tasteful! Well, we hung our flannels over the rack but they would dry out very quickly and go kind of ‘hard’, keeping the shape of the rack. One of my rituals involved using the ‘hard’ flannels, even when they weren’t mine, because then they would get wet and match the others on the rack. I thought the flannels preferred to be damp and so I was doing them a favour. Somehow, this meant that all would be well with the world around me! I did warn you it was strange!
Even stranger, if that’s possible, was my ‘flush formula’! When I pulled the toilet flush, I had to open the bathroom door and get down the first two stairs before all of the water emptied out of the toilet cistern...hand washing was clearly not a priority! Again, I thought this would make sure everything around me would be as it should.
I never shared these thoughts with anyone at the time, and that’s probably just as well, but even though the formulae changed as I got older and were less strange, I carried similar compulsions into my adult life too. Even as a Christian, I thought maybe God was more likely to bless me if I just ‘did this’ or was more ‘like that’, as though certain things needed to be in place to unlock God’s good gifts: a formula that I just needed to get right. Of course, I knew this wasn’t really the case, but the compulsion to go through rituals was very strong for time.
But trust in God is not a formula, its a principle.
While a formula is ‘a method or procedure for achieving something’, a principle is ‘a fundamental, or primary, truth’ which guides everything that follows. We are to trust in the Lord with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3: 5). While it is drummed into us from an early age that we need to work hard to achieve, Paul says, ‘It is by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2: 8-10).
If we make trusting in God the principle of our life, THEN everything will fall into place: ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added to you’ (Matthew 6:33). Trusting in God is not a formula that will make everything around you fall into place, it is the principle we should live by so that when things fall apart, we remain firm, standing on the rock that is our God. ‘For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock except our God?’ (Psalm 18:31)
Jeremiah says, ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.’ (Jeremiah 17: 5-6).
My childhood formulae were born out of anxiety and a need to feel safe but as a child of God, I know that He is with me, strengthens me and upholds me with his righteous right hand (Isaiah 41: 10), that He works all things together for my good (Romans 8: 28). Jesus has already done all that was needed for me to be saved and I will put my trust in Him. It’s the principle.