June Woo, Bowdoin Class of 2016
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5, 7-8 ESV)
Creation reveals the world as it was meant to be, through the world as it is. The language that forms that connection is apparent in the many ways that the scriptures teach this in terms of that. In the passage quoted here, the man who trusts in his creator is like a tree planted by the water. When Job is without confidence in the future, he says, “He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, and my hope has he pulled up like a tree.” (Job 19:10) David describes the righteous man with the same metaphor; he also is “like a tree planted by streams of water.” (Psalm 1:3)
In this passage, the issue is one of confidence. I have always admired people with confidence. Those who are not afraid of what others think of them or how they are viewed. Those who voice their thoughts and opinions even if they may be contrary to what others think or believe. Those who are so comfortable in their own skin that they can laugh at themselves rather than getting defensive or feeling that they need to prove themselves in some way.
In contrast to what I admired, I was a very shy person growing up. My teacher’s note on my second grade report card read “needs to talk more”. Being shy and lacking confidence can be two different things, but I was shy in part because I lacked confidence. When I moved to the United States as a five-year-old, I began school without knowing how to speak English. It took me a while to open up, and even after learning English, I remained shy. In fact, I still don’t like talking in class, and if I am honest with myself, it’s because I don’t feel that I have anything of value to say, and I don’t want to say something and appear ignorant. My dislike of talking in class largely resides in my concern for what others will think of me. But slowly I’m learning to become more confident.
I’ve realized that self-confidence doesn’t come from the self, but it comes from placing my confidence outside of myself. When I place my confidence in my own abilities, how well I do in school or how well I can play a sport, this confidence undoubtedly breaks at some point. A bad mark on a paper or a lost game can affect my confidence, because it resides in my temporal identity as a well-performing student or athlete. But when I place my confidence in Christ, I am confident in who He has made me to be. How well I perform or how well I am perceived doesn’t affect my eternal identity in Christ.
It’s a quiet confidence that can’t be arrogant because it’s not about anything that I am or anything that I do, but about who He is and what He has done for me. It’s a confidence that I work towards every day.
I have found a reason to be confident, because Jesus considered me worthy that He willingly died in my place on the cross so that I could live. If the creator of the universe values me so much, I can’t treat myself as if I were worthless and reject the love that He has showered on me. But at the same time, I can’t be proud or conceited because it is my sin that caused Jesus’ death. It’s not that I was sinless, but God made me sinless through faith, sending His only son to die on behalf of my sins. But Jesus’s righteousness outweighed my sins, as He conquered death and rose again, giving me yet another reason to be confident; He will come back one day and set right all of the suffering and brokenness in the world.
I can be confident because a better future awaits, and those who trust in the Lord will be richly rewarded.
For me, this is a confidence that can’t be shattered, because it does not stem from my own fluctuating abilities, traits, present circumstances, or how I am perceived. It is rather rooted in an all-powerful, unchanging, and faithful God. A God who never fails me, a God who loves me and provides for me. Because of Him, I can be confident, like a tree planted by the water.