I have always been a pretty confident person. Growing up in a family with nine children, my confidence set me apart from the pack. Every Christmas my father would write our holiday letter and two phrases were repeatedly used of me in my early years: “a pit bull on red bull” and “tiger meat wrapped in barbed wire.” Yes, repeatedly.
There are other times, though, when my confidence falters. I can walk out the door to start the day with my head held high, and walk into a day that seems to hold blunder after blunder. You know those days, the ones where you feel like you can’t do a single thing right, even simple things seems to go wrong, and you just feel like the most epic failure who ever walked the earth? Yeah, me too. I have these days more than I would like to admit. Days where I misplace an important document that the boss needs, I forget the meeting that is starting in 30 seconds, I get a parking ticket, and I realize that I forgot my mom’s birthday yesterday. Those kind of a days leave me sitting in the parking lot of our apartment complex, completely bankrupt of all confidence, wishing for a nice coma to tide me over until all of it has passed.
And in times like these, when my confidence has been shredded, I sit before the Lord and wonder: will He reject me? When my natural confidence has evaded me and I am left raw and unfiltered and unmasked, this question throbs in my heart: will He reject me? At the end of all things, will I have worn out His grace, tired His faithfulness, or exhausted my welcome?
When this question comes, when it sinks into my bones and into my soul, I am afraid. I fear that the answer is “yes,” that He will turn me away, that I have not impressed Him, not made the cut, not been what He had hoped.
And then I remember Austin. I remember the day I got that parking ticket. Our budget was exceedingly tight, and we didn’t have spare change to pay for parking, let alone a parking ticket. I didn’t want to tell him about it, but there it was in my hands when I walked through the front door. I couldn’t look him in the eyes because I was so embarrassed for doing something so silly, so avoidable. But all he said was, “You can’t hug me with your hands full.” He wrapped me up in the hug I knew best, in the arms that are the most familiar to me. With my face pressed against his chest I could smell his familiar scent, and feel the familiar patches of warmth on his arms where he had been holding a book before I got home. This was the same hug that had greeted me every other day I walked through that door. Any other day, it seemed routine; but that day, it caught me by surprise. Even though I was returning home feeling like a failure, that didn’t change him.
In that moment I knew the answer: No. Our God won’t reject me. He won’t turn me away because of my own failures or shortcomings. He won’t reject me because my confidence is not in my own ability please Him, but in His unchanging character.
I have put stock in my own ability to impress God with my character, choices, intentions, and habits. But I have failed and I will fail again. If my confidence lies in my own ability to prove myself to God, I will constantly live in fear. But if I chose the hard work of placing my confidence in His unchanging character, then I will live in security. If Austin, as an earthly husband, can receive and embrace me in the midst of my failure, then certainly our God will do the same. Austin, as a God-given picture of the Gospel, displays to me the grace and character only found in God. Austin is the imperfect, here-and-now picture of the eternal marriage of the Christ and the Church.
So this is the work we have to do: to chose each day to derive our confidence from the unchanging character of God. When doubt mingles with fear, when the failures of the day threaten to drown us, we will turn our faces towards the only One who both knows us and receives us. Bringing our failures and shortcomings in our hands, we will approach Him with confidence – confidence that knows and believes His character is unchanging, trusting that He will embrace us and welcome us, just as He always has. We will walk through the door carrying all the reminders of our own embarrassment, and we will take them to Him, confident that even when our character fails, His never changes.