Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stripping Away Self-Confidence-- Building God-Confidence

All my life, confidence in my own abilities and talents is not something I've lacked. I would not say I ever felt cocky or arrogant... but my parents gave me plenty of praise and plenty of "you can do anything you put your mind to do"-type comments, and so I have gone through life feeling able... able (from an early age) to speak in public settings, able to take the lead part in musicals, able to win drum competitions, able to go out for and be class president. Now, in the area of friendships, I have perpetually felt deficient and still to this day struggle with the sense that I am an outsider to the "real" group, those people, over there... but in the area of skills and effort, I've felt capable.

And it has continued on in my life, sometimes in very positive ways-- like the confidence that I can learn to embroider simply from reading about it in books. (I'm learning, and it's going well!) Or the confidence that I can step out and begin classes in counseling. (I'll start my first class next month.) So please don't hear me saying that feeling capable, in and of itself, is always a bad thing.

But God is changing some perspectives in my life. Wow, has He been working on it!

(Have you ever had that realization, when you keep hitting the same struggle--"whoa! He means to DO this in me... He's got a purpose here!")

I am seeing that He has strategically chipped away certain parts of me... and that chipping away has been painful (like Eustace with the dragon scales)... but He is teaching me where to place my confidence.

It is very helpful to be back in the States for this short season of life... to thoughtfully examine our lives, without the weighty "backpack" of cultural stress we've been carrying around for these many years. And one thing I'm beginning to see clearly that God has done during the last 5 years of our lives is strip away my self confidence; here are some of the ways I can see His hand:
  • In Doug's time of unexplained collapses and sickness, 5 years ago, God stripped me of the sense that I had the ability to control life. He removed me from a place where I felt competent, confident, and in control, and took me to a place of need and uncertainty. And honestly, He kept me in that state of need for the last 4 years.

  • Over the last 5 years, He has given us three wonderful children-- children who have absolutely stretched me beyond what I (in myself) am capable of. I can no longer operate under the illusion that I am competent and that I can easily drum up self-control equal to the task.
  • Over the last decade, He has transitioned us from a life where I was valued as an integral part of a respected office to our home, where the value of my work (and the ugly things too) is mostly seen in secret, known primarily to God Himself. My husband sees it, and a few others in our lives see and appreciate it, but it's mostly hidden away.

Namely, He has taken me from feeling confident, competent, and in control to a very strong awareness of my need for Him.

At various points, acquaintances have marvelled at the way that Doug and I "held up" through that season of sickness, or have commented, "oh, I could never do that!", when we had our 3rd or 4th children. I didn't realize it at the time; I thought I was honoring God in my responses, but I used to say, "well, I guess God built us strong." How embarrassing that is for me to write now, just a few years later! The way I glorified myself as the Strong one, with a little nod to my Creator.

I am beginning to see now that His end goal for me is not that I become a confident, capable, in control woman. His goal for me is that I would become like Christ, and boast in Him alone. That I would see and freely admit that His strength is shown to be complete in my weakness. That I would know and believe that He is able to do all that needs doing, and that my abilities come from Him and are maintained in Him. That instead of trying to tightly grip each day, each situation, or each person, and control my way through life, I can acknowledge the reality of His role as the "Blessed Controller" and walk in freedom.

Simply put, He is stripping away my self-confidence and building up my God-confidence.

Last week, I was fortunate to get away for a quiet walk near the edge of a forest. I was talking out loud with God, which He's teaching me to do once again. I began pouring out all of these things that I've just written to you. They've been bottled up inside my heart for so long, and they just came spilling out to my Father, who of course had already seen and known it all.

Just then, I came to a place where someone had mowed down a meandering path through the tall grass and bushes at the edge of this forest. I glanced around and walked ahead, not knowing where the path would lead, wondering if I was foolish to be walking off in a forest I wasn't familiar with, on a path with a destination I didn't know. Pained in my heart, with tears in my eyes, I asked Him,

"how can I avoid going back to those old ways? How can I not revert back to that old self-confidence? Will you help me? My whole life I've walked with the need to control and be thought capable. Can the fabric of my life be re-woven without those ugly threads inserting themselves in each line?"

The path curved, and as I wiped away my tears, I looked and there was a stone amongst the grass, dead center in the pathway. I removed my shoes, stepped onto the rock, and realized that here, God had answered me:

only by placing my confidence in the Solid Rock can I move forward.

He is the One I must trust. Not self. Not abilities. Not control. Not competence. Jesus Christ! I don't have all the practical answers yet, of what this means, but I know that He is changing me, and I'm so grateful to Him for never letting me curl up into myself and stagnate. It's not easy, but it's so good.

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed.
I trust the Ever-Living One;
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument; I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.

Drum photo:
Image: Bill Longshaw /


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