This past December I did a post about Flannery O’Connor that included this quote from A Prayer Journal (published after she died):
I want so to love God all the way. At the same time I want all the things that seem opposed to it—I want to be a fine writer. Any success will tend to swell my head—unconsciously even. If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me.
Writers—and maybe musicians and artists and even people in other walks of life—must have a measure of self-confidence in order to attempt a book, or even an essay or a short story or a poem. It takes courage to put your creative efforts out there for all the world to judge. It would be so much easier to work in a field where your daily assignments are black and white. Balance these books. Add these numbers. Repair this engine. But… make up a story from scratch? Or brazenly tell a true one?
O’Connor acknowledges God’s part in her creative work, and yet she surely must have had some degree of “self” confidence to keep on keeping on, in the face of numerous rejections and other discouraging aspects of the writing life. So how does a Christian balance this self-confidence with faith?
Mother Melania, an Orthodox nun who lives in the community of Holy Assumption Monastery in California, says this:
Self-confidence is a much valued trait in our culture…. What is a Christian to make of this? After all, we would be very hard pressed to find any saints in the Church who ever bemoaned their own lack of self-confidence or tried to increase it in their spiritual children. That’s not to say that the saints were not confident people.
And then she goes on to give examples of saints whose courage and faith inspired generations. And then she says:
The different between their confidence and our self-confidence has to do with at least two things—the purpose of this confidence and the person in whom it is placed. The saints had confidence in the goodness and power of God…. We, on the other hand, have a multitude of purposes for our self-confidence—an easier life, more money, increased status… even to do good for our fellows. But if the purpose is not to love God and neighbor, what possible sense does it make to place that confidence in myself?
Today is the feast day of the Annunciation in the Orthodox Church. We commemorate the event described in Holy Scriptures when the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she would become the Mother of God. I can’t even imagine the confidence it took for this humble young girl to respond with “be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:28). She was facing public humiliation and scorn and disbelief on the part of many. Her life was about to change in ways she could barely imagine. Any plans she had for her future were immediately set aside. Was it “only faith” that allowed her to respond so obediently? I think she also had a measure of confidence—in self and in God. Again, from Mother Melania:
The root word in ‘confidence’ is fides…. ‘faith, trust, confidence; belief, credence; loyalty; honestly; allegiance; promise; security; protection.’… to place our confidence/fides lovingly and humbly in the Lord of the Universe Who willingly died that we might share in His life is an unspeakable privilege, a great adventure, and unimaginable joy. Grant this, O Lord!
I love this video, “Be Done Unto Me.” May it inspire you on this Feast of Annunciation!