Taylor, you are so gifted and skilled and bright, but you don’t always believe in yourself. God has made you special and unique. Have confidence in how God has made you. Not pride, which says, “I don’t need God,” but confidence, which says, “with God’s help I will be all he has made me to be.”
Donald Ray Hibbs, letter to his son before brain surgery on October 21, 1993
I didn’t read these words when I was 8. I read them when I was 32. I’m re-reading them now at 34. Strange, how we change without changing. Twenty-six years didn’t take away my self-doubt. It still trails after me everywhere, like a loose thread on my shirt. Pulling at it with achievement only makes it worse and more obvious to everyone else.
My Father Saw Me
My father knew his sons. He saw us. He studied us. He watched and waited, looking at our movements like the waving turns of fish gliding in the green pond of time. And as he saw me, he watched me fin my way out from the school, and then back, out and back, out and back. I wouldn’t wander far because I doubted everything in me. I doubted my gills (could I bring in enough oxygen?). I doubted my fins (I wasn’t as fast at the other fish). I doubted my direction (how am I supposed to know which way to go?). I doubted all of myself. And he saw it. My father saw me.
Now, the bragging, booted fisherman of the world would have sloshed through the water, swirling up the mud, and grabbed my body with his dirty-nailed hands. There would’ve been yelling. “Believe in yourself! Believe in yourself! You can do it! Look at everyone else doing it!” Then I would have been cast back into the water, chasing some illusion of prosperity, some shining ambition in the mud.
My father was kinder and wiser. He’d been broken. He’d been born a second time. He’d been tamed by divine speech and taught the foreign language of God. He’d learned to speak from a little black book pressed down on the kitchen table. Every dawn. Just him and his God . . . and the rising steam of coffee. A man, his mug, and his God.
That watchful man, ever with an ear for God’s voice, didn’t pull me from the water. He didn’t yell or spout mantras about self-confidence. He knew those words would send fish raging against currents they had no business challenging. He knew those words could never comfort; they could only kill. Self-confidence leads to self-consuming pride and unbridled ambition, which lead to hate, selfishness, jealousy, and death.
God-confidence, on the other hand, leads to selflessness, love, sacrifice, gratitude, and life. Selflessness, because our gaze is fixed on another (God). Love, because we have no explanation for why God would give himself for us. Sacrifice, because we see that what’s ultimately important isn’t how much we get, but how much we give in pointing back to the Giver. Gratitude, because we’re happy just to have a unique path to swim, guided by the fingers of God’s Spirit. Life, because that is simply who God is (John 6:14).
God-confidence, you see, means that whenever we look at a task before us, we lift up our eyes, and start swimming. We flick our fins only when staring at divine sovereignty. It is God who works in us to do what he wants to do. It is God who is the great fisher of men. It is God who made, makes, and will make us.
I don’t know if or when I’ll end my struggle with self-doubt. But thanks to my father, who followed his Father, I know exactly what I have to keep doing. Wherever you are today, don’t look at yourself. Your Father sees you. God is looking. And he’s called us to look back. So, keep your eyes fixed on the power, promises, and perfection of God. Everything rests on him. What use is self-confidence in a world that isn’t governed by selves? But what greatness in God-confidence because the world moves at his words!
Keep looking up.