“What is our Prime Minister’s name”?

Such was the opening gambit from the Neuropsychologist I met last week in Melbourne.

“Julia.” I replied, rock solid in my practiced smile of confidence, well befitting a man of forty nine and nine tenths (now fourteen fifteenths!)

“Julia who”? The doctor’s second question carried the faintest tang of inquisition.  Did she lean forward a fraction? Is her brow a little furrowed, her eye a tiny bit keen?

“Julia ………………..”



Julia Rudd.  Julia Howard.  Julia Keating.  Julia Hawk. Julia Frazer.  Julia Whitlam.  Julia McMahon.  Julia Gorton. Julie Holt.  Arraigned like prisoners in the dock, every prime ministerial surname in my lifetime was vying for attention; all but one! It was gone. Utterly absent.


“It begins with G”.  A benign prompt from the doctor.


Looking for the G word was like opening a too-familiar sock drawer and discovering instead the gaping, chilled horror of interstellar space. A black hole of unthinkable proportion.


So she told me.  Gillard.

Humiliation.  The official record of my sanity was in the balance, and I had faltered at the break.  I worked on my smile.  A relaxed, confident smile, the one I had practiced in the train window. Have you any idea how tricky it is to produce an unaffected, natural smile for a Neuropsychologist?  Thankfully, however, I had a single word in mind, a word that helps me smile.

Next up we tested recollection. I listened to a list of thirty or so unrelated words, repeating as many as possible from memory; twice, thrice, four times through the list to see if I could learn. And learn I could!  I added a judicious “Gillard” to the end of each list; a token of my endless remorse.  And she smiled. 

It was up and up from there.  Block puzzles, intricate dot-to-dots, and complex geometric patterns all suit me well.  A list of fifty increasingly unusual words to read out loud was difficult only in being ‘out loud’. Delectable words like intransigent and deleterious and vexatious made me smile. More taxing was a lengthy questioning about my medical journey and current outlook on life.  Most of this I typed. And typed, and typed, and typed, and typed, and typed.  Two and a half hours later I had apparently earned five psychological stars.

Then came the really difficult bit: hospital admission.  The second day in hospital is quite bearable, but the first must be the loneliest, most forlorn stretch of hours in life.  But I had a word in mind, a word that made me smile and carried me easily through this strangest day.

The word was a gift from a Nun. 

For some weeks we have been exchanging thoughts, my Sister-friend and I, on the topic of Trust.  We have never met, but have in common a growing dependence on others to meet our daily needs.  Trust, my friend tells me with the insight of years of contemplative prayer, “Is the most difficult work possible, but necessary to enter the Kingdom.”  Why, I asked her, is trust work?  To protestant ears they sound at odds.  And here it is, in the words of Christ:

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

It’s the change that is such hard work.  I delight in watching each of my children growing into competent and wonderful adults, taking full control of their lives. I once believed this path of differentiation to be the greatest journey in life. “A man shall leave his father and mother”. But now I see another path that stretches further, and whose gradient is steeper yet.  Having gained our independence, the call is to surrender all with grace and trust.  

St. Francis of Assisi taught that every encounter between one human and another is a sacrament.  In the other we will always meet a child of God. 

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I surrender control to the Almighty by placing trust in those He sends.  This is possible, it can be done, and the peace is staggeringly good!  But relinquishing the self-centered need to dictate the terms and conditions of my life is hard, hard work. A life time of finely tuned control must be undone. 

The responsibility to act wisely and live fruitfully remains; but we are sometimes blessed, perhaps, by the advent of these taxing afflictions that force us to trust. “Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, and He will lift you up”.

If you read last Sunday’s attempt at an essay, you may be thinking this is all so much theory, or plain hot air!  You will know that I didn’t finish hospital week nearly as well as I began it. I can only say that Trust takes a lifetime.  My good friend also reminds me that Trust is better as a verb than a noun: it’s something we do, not something we have.  Trust is the daily challenge, the need of the minute.



3 thoughts on “Trust

  1. Sharon

    I am touched by your words, I am taught by your words, I practice your words….surrender and trust, no, first must come trust, than surrender.Only when surrender has trust to it, does it become a wonderful verb. Reminds me of the story of a 5 yr old boy caught in a fire on the 2nd floor. His Dad tells him to jump and he will catch him in his arms. The boy does not hesitate for a second but leaps into the arms of his father. Love is what makes for trust. God loves us more than a father loves his son.

  2. norma chalmers

    Good reading here Rod and much food for thought.Thank you for your encouragement ! Keep up the good work .

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