If I could level up any one attribute of mine, it would be confidence. I’m not sure why, but it feels like the low roll on my character sheet. Please forgive me for reverting for a moment to my childhood D&D days, but the rest of my attributes… strength, charisma, wisdom…all of these get a fairly decent number. But confidence is way down there at the bottom. Like an Achilles heel. And it doesn’t seem to improve over time.
It is more than merely self-confidence. It is confidence in others. I lack that optimistic trust that can count on those around me for support. That I can let down my guard and be myself without getting wounded in the process. Instead, I find myself bracing for an inevitable let down. It feels like it is only a matter of time until they see through me. They realize I’m not all I’m cracked up to be. That my flaws and quirks outweigh my value. And that they will, unsurprisingly, move on.
This isn’t a false reality. It does happen. As a pastor for quite a few years, I have a number of dear friends who have walked away from our relationship in disappointment. I let them down by asking the wrong question, admitting a delicate fear or doubt, expressing frustration towards something ‘sacred’, or simply introverting too hard and not responding in time.
My problem isn’t that I’m believing a lie. No, the problem is the amount of energy and power I give to these moments when they occur. Their volume is cranked up to ten, while the affirmations and positive connections become a low murmur in the background. They scream at me, “See! You did it again! You showed too much of your heart, your brokenness, your ordinariness. What did you think was going to happen?!”
And my confidence shatters…the little that was there in the first place. And in that place of woundedness comes the sinister follow up question, “who do you think you are?” Which isn’t even a bad question. But the damage comes with the sinister sneer of accusation that is entirely in the tone. The temptation is always to despair, to go inward, and to miss the small voice, whispering a divine answer to the question at the center of my heart.
“You are my beloved.”
Oh, the extremes God is forced to go through to get me to actually hear and believe those words! So many layers of self-doubt, insecurity, and an overall lack of confidence have to be hacked, bypassed, and circumnavigated to get to that place of understanding. But God doesn’t relent. I won’t go into the details here, but I have seen God do this repeatedly, patiently, and even elaborately. It takes so much to get my attention, but when those words finally penetrate, I am overwhelmed by, not only God’s perseverance, but just how well he knows me…with all my quirks and weirdness and insecurity.
God doesn’t simply say I’m good enough. Or that I don’t really need to work on the junk in my own life. Nor does he say I’m perfect just the way I am. No, instead it is that feeling that God delights in the process, almost like a playful game of getting me to smile. So pleased with my simple noticings and tiny, unsteady steps forward. God isn’t wearily shaking his head. He is immersed in this with me. And he loves it!
I love how Paul, in Philippians, says he’s confident in this one thing. That God will eventually finish the work he started in his life…Paul, the chief sinner. Not in himself. Not in his attempts to add value or achieve greatness, nor his failures or disqualifications. God will do it.
He is confident, because he keeps watching God do it. And the underlying message is even better. Yes, he is confident that he is a work in progress that will eventually be finished. But, as a result, he is convinced…convinced!...that nothing can separate him from God’s love. This is what the pursuit of God means. It is love on display. God’s delight in us!
And so I’ll continue to listen carefully. When I find myself exposed and in despair. When my self-worth is shattered and I just want to detach and hide. I am learning to hear past the drowning volume of my own insecurity, to that beautifully still, small voice, whispering those words of affectionate delight in who I am, who I am becoming, and the joy of where we will go.
So, my friends, when you feel low, listen. Carefully. Patiently. Pay attention to the small things in your periphery. Maybe, just maybe, God is there, trying to get your attention. Telling you what a delight you are, exactly for who you are. Because He is. I promise. If I’m confident of anything, it is that.
As my soul grows quiet
I return to that astounding truth
that at the heart of my being
I am eternally loved…
I rest in your embrace
(this beautiful prayer was shared with me by my friend, Steve Summerell)