Are You Confident?

Confidence.  I think about this word today because I read a story about a woman who changed her hair color.  She became so much more confident.  A silly thing–an external change–altered her perception of herself and influenced how she interacted with others.  

I look up the word.  Confidence means you have assurance about yourself and your abilities.  But where does it come from?  Why are some folks so confident?  They move forward with a security–a trust–that they can launch out into new frontiers with sure success.

Others have ideas that flicker out like snuffed flames because they can’t imagine themselves ever really doing what they want so badly to do. They cower under the reality of potential criticism, inexperience, and insecurity. 

As I imagine a picture of confidence, I realize that confidence comes from the deeply held belief that we’re unconditionally accepted, equipped, and commissioned by God to do things.  If we fail, it doesn’t matter: we’re accepted (and even in failure, God works out a favorable outcome).  If we feel inadequate: we remember God equips (and in our limitations, God shines).  If we feel uncertain: we recall that God has set apart the good works for us to accomplish. We’re commissioned.   

When my writing book showed up on amazon, I had a moment of sheer terror.  It was public.  I was going to be mocked!  I was going to fail and forever go down in history as the poor woman who tried to write a book (in reality, nobody really thinks about us as much as we imagine).  But when I picture the confident me–the one whose confidence rests in God who does not fail us–I took a deep breath and remembered the truth. 

Living with flair means we cultivate a picture of confidence.  What do we want to do that a simple lack of confidence hinders? 

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Journal:  What takes our confidence away?

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What to Do with Your Fear

Last night, my daughter can’t sleep because of nightmares.  She’s terrified.  I ask her to come beside me so we can pray for Jesus to take away all her fears.

“Don’t ask Him to take away all my fears,” she responds.  “I need some of them.” 

“Which ones do you need?” 

“The ones that keep me safe, you know, from bad places and dangerous things,” she explains. 

Some fear is good, I realize.

Just that afternoon at the pond, I find myself overcome by fear.  A snake slithers across my garden shoes, and I nearly run back home, leaving my children behind.  It moves into the water, and suddenly, the whole landscape changes.

Snake in the Pond

The beautiful pond turns ominous, deadly, haunted.  My beautiful secret pond has trees with claws and thorns set as traps for my arms and legs. 

I actually can’t breathe for a minute. 

The Trees Have Claws

Snakes!  They really are out here.  But then I find my camera, and I notice the way the late afternoon sun covers the whole place.  When I see what the sun reflects, I perceive beauty again.  It’s the kind of beauty that always lives alongside danger and fear. 

Put back in context, I realize that a little garden snake and an old tree don’t have any power here.  There’s something greater in these woods.  The fear is real, but there’s always something greater than our fear.  It’s the power of God.  It illuminates this path, covers everything, and lets us run with freedom. 

Running with Freedom

Some fear is good.  But when fear consumes and paralyzes us, we have to remember who is greater than our fear. 

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Journal:  What fears do I need to put in the right context today? 

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Going to the Bottom of the Well

Just this week, a dear friend of mine describes herself as  “holding on to the edge for dear life so she doesn’t fall to the bottom of the well.”

You grip the well’s ledge, keep your chin up, and refuse to fall. 

It’s a haunting image of a life lived in fear of surrender.  My tight grip on the ledge represents a picture of what I cannot face on the road to personal transformation, freedom, and joy.   I’m afraid of what’s down there if I journey deeper into places of brokenness.  Can’t I just stay up here, white knuckled, with my jaw clenched, fighting? 

All day, I consider how I need to let go of my tight grip on my life, trying to hold everything together in that desperate and clenched way that drains out the life and hope. 

A friend looks her straight between the eyes and says, “You need to let go and fall to the bottom of the well.”  That’s the way to begin to heal. 

But what happens when she lets go?  What fearful thing awaits?  She cannot do this alone. 

Another friend says, “I’ll fall to the bottom with you.”

And another, days later, adds:  “God is at the bottom of the well.” 

We release our grip, surrender to the work of healing God wants in our lives, and look around.  We aren’t alone:  Friends journey down into the darkness with us, and God himself embraces us at the moment we let go. 

(Photograph of a well in Argentina, Creative Commons)

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Journal:

Today, I remember a quote from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke:  “Works of art always spring from those who have faced the danger, gone to the very end of an experience, to the point beyond which no human being can go. The further one dares to go, the more decent, the more personal, the more unique a life becomes.”  
What danger do I need to face? 
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Visualize This

Just now, we return from attending our first college gymnastics meet.  At the uneven parallel bars, the gymnasts perform extraordinary movements that, when seen live and up close, actually terrify me.  I squeeze the arm of the neighbor sitting next to me with every rotation and every dismount.  I’m certain these gymnasts will crash-land into the floor. 

As I watch, I notice the coach (suit and tie, arms crossed firmly) at the sidelines.  As soon as one of his gymnasts begins a difficult and dangerous sequence, the coach plants himself directly under his gymnast, holds both hands out as if to catch her, and waits for her to complete her performance.  And how that coach cheers!

Within one routine, he darts in and out from underneath the bars many times, ready to assist and catch in the exact moment of possible danger or difficulty.

What I would risk if I knew I wouldn’t fall!  What things might I attempt if I knew someone stood beneath me, arms ready to catch or cheer?

This uneven life, running parallel to spiritual realities, offers chances I cannot possibly attempt (out of fear, out of danger).  But with One beneath me?  I swing out into new directions, and I visualize the firm stance and wide arms of a God who will not let me fall. 

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Journal:  What would I try if I knew I’d not fall?

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Your Adventure

Hot Air Balloon

I glance at the morning sky and spy a hot air balloon drifting across the valley.  This part of the country displays the most vibrant autumn colors, and hot air balloon rides provide a terrific (although terrifying) vantage point.

I’d never do it.  A balloon?  A basket?  Me in there, high above the earth?  Never

Moments later, I stand in front of college students who do remarkable things despite fear.  They visit Egypt on archeology trips; they study Latin American countries so they can travel and negotiate border disputes; they enlist in the Army and await deployment; they go into prisons and practice rehabilitation methods.

Unsafe things.  Terrifying things.

Yesterday, my neighbor tells me her oldest daughter is mastering Arabic so she can spend a year in the Middle East.

“Isn’t that really unsafe?  Aren’t you so scared?” 

“Of course,” she says. 

Of course it’s unsafe.  Of course she’s scared.  But something else matters more than her fear.  

Later, I’m talking with a friend about her husband’s new job offer.  A huge unknown.  A huge gamble.  She’s terrified.  

I tell her to surrender to the adventure of it.  If you know what’s going to happen, that’s not adventure, that’s a script.  That’s a high-action drama with a plot-spoiler.  Don’t give the fear power.  If there’s fear, it just means the adventure is that great. 

No fear, no adventure.

The spirit of adventure I see in younger folks challenges me to move ahead in the face of fear.  Of course it’s scary.  Most adventures are.  That’s what makes them adventures.

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