“in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” Ephesians 3:12
I have had an online profile long enough to find Facebook memories funny and sentimental. Often, I’ll screenshot the memory of something my children did or said and send it to them with a laughing emoji. Memories include anything from attending bluegrass festivals to sitting on the porch with a parasol reading a book. The comments can be about clowns, chocolate, or Charles Dickens. It’s a snapshot of sorts that reminds me of the life we have lived.
Recently, I posted a picture of a cake I halfheartedly decorated. The mini cake sat on a pedestal slightly lopsided. The chocolate frosting, in what could best be described as rustic, covered the cake with unwanted speckles of crumb poking through. With no filters, I captioned the photo, “A for flavor, C for decorating”. This is not the first time I have posted some of my less than stellar decorating photos. Just today, Facebook reminded me of two such posts, another cake I attempted to decorate and a metallic looking blueberry meringue I made for a pie. Again, I posted these pictures with disparaging remarks, knowing that some of my friends would chuckle.
A friend of mine is doing hard things in her life. She is raising three school-age children, working full-time, and going to school part time to earn her bachelor’s degree. She grew up in a faith-based community that didn’t encourage women to seek higher education, leaving her with little means to support herself after her marriage imploded. There is so much more I could say about this woman and the trauma she experienced in the last few years, but it is not my story to tell. Recently, she expressed some trepidation about taking a philosophy course, having no previous experience with the subject. She worried whether she was grasping the reading when she made discussion posts and if her papers would suffice. Her class finished this week and she shared with me that she earned an A+ for all her writing. She qualified her grade with the caveat, “I think my professor is an easy grader.”
These words stuck with me for a few days, just like the images of my not so beautiful cakes are forever embedded in social media. I hear a lot of my friends make similar statements. We, especially women, seem to downplay the work we do or minimize it in comparison to others. We say “It was nothing” after organizing a successful event or “I could’ve been more prepared” after giving a well-received speech. We post unflattering pictures about our lives to keep it real. We attribute our successes to the support system around us to keep us humble. And we believe that our professor was an easy grader instead of believing we worked hard to understand the material and were able to articulate it well in writing.
Later, this same friend shared that going to school has helped her feel empowered, opening her world to different points of views. She also shared that she has earned a great GPA, giving her confidence in both her intelligence and abilities. I, too, can publicly state, I am a good baker. For years, I have made Christmas cookies that other people have craved. My homemade cakes taste better than most purchased at a grocery store. Yet, both of us still fall into the habit of dismissing our intelligence and abilities.
Not all our responses in life are bad. I do think keeping things real on social media reminds viewers that not every picture is perfectly staged with smiling children, flawless homes, or perfectly frosted cakes. It reinforces the reality that life is sometimes messy. I do think it is important to acknowledge the support system that helps you to achieve your goals. I also think its important to remain humble, not boasting that you are the best at what you do. But there is room for a woman to be confident in her life and not dismiss her work and skills!
Being confident often gets confused with being prideful. Yet, the two have different starting points. Confidence roots itself in your identity with God, while pride roots itself in being self-made. Confidence is defined as the result of a right understanding of your abilities and limitations, recognizing that the ultimate source is God given. Pride is the overestimation of yourself, with a constant need for justification or feedback to support your pride. Confidence measures your sufficiency in Christ, while pride seeks to be self-sufficient. There are three indicators to keep you rooted in confidence and avoid pride: your idea of perfection, the ability to celebrate and collaborate with others, and an attitude of gratefulness.
Years ago, I planned and budgeted for what I thought was a perfect family trip, including highlights for each family member. The biggest highlight for my son and husband was seeing the Boston Pops perform the 1812 Overture on Independence Day. My perfect vacation was derailed on July 3rd when the transmission in our van died, leaving us stranded outside of Portland for hours. We had to scratch the critically acclaimed whoopie pies off my list, and with a late arrival to Boston, we were too exhausted to get up the next morning for the free concert tickets. Emily Ley says in her book Grace, Not Perfection, “Don’t sacrifice the good to chase the perfection.” My perfectly planned vacation could have been a major flop for our family. We didn’t hit all the highlights and we blew our budget with a rental. But we chose to continue the vacation and focused on creating memories. It is important to plan things well and put your best foot forward, but perfection becomes a problem when something doesn’t turn out exactly the way you planned, and your attitude in response doesn’t honor Christ.
My friend’s son produces amazing music. Caleb takes melodies from artists, including his sister Megan, and adds strings, drums, and counter melodies to give the song a fuller, richer sound. He readily shares the details of his work and invites feedback. The song, Alright by Megg Noell demonstrates the power of collaboration. In the past, I have led teams to create a successful Vacation Bible School program. I recognize that my skill set lies in creating a vision and writing out plans. I am not good at crafts, not coordinated enough for games, and not detailed enough for set design. But I am good at finding the people with talents in those areas and giving them a platform to develop their talent. Like Caleb, I am confident enough in my ability to work with others to effectively minister the gospel.
Finally, confidence always gives the glory back to God. Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes, “A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.” Our confidence should point others to Christ, helping them see God actively working within us.
When I think about my friend and all the hard things she is doing, I am proud of her. She has allowed God to birth in her a desire for more than the circumstances she was handed. She is creating a new life for herself and her family, centered on God. And she earned the grade she was given, demonstrated by the hours she read, studied, and wrote. On a personal note, I need to stop posting pictures of my decorating mishaps. These cakes I made were not for any special days or food blog posts, they were for the simple enjoyment of my family. I don’t need to be the only voice for keeping it real on social media. I am confident that if I need a cake for a special occasion, I have enough people around me who can decorate it to make it beautiful!
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