PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

Confidence


My assignment to serve young people in my new community brought me anew to facing the issue of confidence. How do I serve the Lord, indeed, walk my daily walk as a Christian, with confidence? Do I do things because I know I could in my own wisdom, or do I do things humbly, i.e. in a submitted way? Do I ask the Lord how to do it His way? Or is it more about doing it my way?

C.J., my unofficial extra spiritual director of sorts, whom I canonize for sainthood, confronted me with this issue.

Whenever I am asked to serve the youth (mostly high school students), I always recoil in defiance. "Why me when I am most unworthy, unqualified?" To start my litany of excuses, I would always say that I am a nerd, a klutz, a Luddite, a weirdo and a recluse rolled into a one.

Even in my only perceived strength, I feel inadequate: I am a thinker, tinkerer and moper. I would rather think and sleep afterwards than do anything. But, tell me, where in serving the youth does my special temperament (artist bent?) enter into the scheme of things? Almost nowhere.

But God wants me and He was insistent. Talk about the Lord pushing, shoving me out of my comfort zone. I told the Lord, don't press the issue; it's of no use, it's a no go. Then, one day, an annoying email message just seem to jump out of the screen catching my attention: "I do not call the qualified but I qualify those whom I call." Then scriptural messages galore followed in and out of my prayer time. The message became deafening.

Under my personal circumstances, it was so very hard to say yes. But in the end I made a gamble just the same: "Lord, get off me my heavy burdens and I'll do what You want." I was referring to my tremendous debts at the time which were weighing me down like a bad IMF loan.

To cut the story short, my baptism of fire - specifically, conducting the community's first Young Adults Summer Camp - came and turned out a success, considering everything. Things simply fell into their proper places - the concept, the materials, the warm bodies needed, the venue. Talk about the finger of God moving things like an unseen director. The kids themselves said they enjoyed the camp and actually asked when the next camp would be

And yet during the camp's duration, there were moments when I still felt like I couldn't do the job because I was unfit. I knew that it's God's way of shaming the wise - remember the lowly fishermen of Israel becoming the world's first apostles? Obviously it was devil attacking me right where I was vulnerable - the issue of confidence.

Like the times when ugly realities rear their ugly heads: I realize I don't know how to do this and that (yes, embarrassingly, despite my age, sex, and state of life). I never had the chance to learn a lot of things largely because I didn't have the time, energy and inclination. Unfortunately, serving the youth means doing all the things for which I sorely lacked in talent.

My unofficial spiritual adviser noticed a hint of this problem one time when we were holding our hands for the Our Father. She has this gift of discerning things just by holding people's hands. She detected that I was having problems with self-confidence. I could only pause and tell her on the verge of tears that she was right!

Then and there, the trouble stared at me in the face: The trouble was I was plucking my confidence from the self that's why I felt I was not up to the task. The right attitude, C. reminded me, was to be confident in the Lord, that He was the one who has chosen me in spite of me, that it was not my work but His, that I was serving Him because I was called foremost to be a lowly servant.

And that I could only do all the things He has tasked me to do by first being attuned to Him at all times.

C., on days ensuing, would quote me Ps. 16:8: "I keep the Lord always before me; with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken." And Ps. 112: "They shall not fear an ill report; their hearts are steadfast, trusting the Lord. Their hearts are tranquil, without fear..." And Is. 12:2: "God is indeed my savior, I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the Lord and He has been my savior."

C. advises me to offer myself up completely to God every morning. She advises me about the importance of praying to the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit may supply all the words as I speak in God's name.

My story is a recapitulation of ancient stories of how the Lord chooses the fool to shame the wise; how the Holy Spirit emboldens us when we need it, so that we need not worry on what to say or do when we are attacked in our spiritual Achilles' heels; and ultimately, how the Lord does things in such a way that we may not end up boasting, and that "if we are to boast," we may "only boast in the Lord."

5.31.2001


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