The lesson I learned on the first flight out of Nashville: confidence is not perfection.
Written above the clouds on June 25, 2016.
I drove home on hot, Sunday afternoon. As I heard the songs about a life spent in love, a phrase repeated within me.
Prepare my heart in the ways I can’t.
Those few words resonated, and I couldn’t shake them off of me. As I cried out into the muggy, Tennessee air, that simple phrase became my prayer in the coming days.
This meant that, whether or not I realized it, I was asking for the unknown. Prepare my heart to do the work I have not yet seen. Prepare my heart to trust this new path, even when I go back to familiar places and am tempted to long for that comfort again. Prepare my heart to find joy, even when I’m on the way to the airport and have no clue how much my checked-bag weighs. Prepare my heart to rise to the work, even as I hug one last goodbye and turn to walk toward the security line alone and behind walls I’ve never seen before.
Prepare my heart in the ways I can’t.
:: :: ::
I thought confidence was knowing how to do everything and doing it well. Over these past few months, I dreamed that I would walk through large airports and change the lives of the hundreds of people I passed along the way with a simple glance. In vain, I thought prayers of confidence meant I would be shown how to do everything and be able to do them perfectly immediately.
But, that was before I started doing the things I’ve been praying for: before checking in luggage, before hugging goodbye, before crying over a cinnamon roll while watching planes roll in, before rolling the carry-on bag behind me to gate C-11 toward Los Angeles. It was a lot more scary once those things began to happen.
Honestly, my first airport experience was very overwhelming. I was leaving my sweet Tri-Star state to go to the West Coast, and then meeting dozens of new people who would take an even longer trip with me to the other side of the world. In those moments between leaving home and finding the Tom Bradley International Terminal, I was flying solo. For the first time. No other airport experience, apart from the stories I had heard and the advice I had been given.
It was a very real reminder of my smallness, and my great need for others. Call it crazy, but the stranger who asked me in security, “Was I supposed to leave my purse in the tub?” changed my day because I realized I’m not the only one with questions. And the cashier who gave me a carton of orange juice with the rest of my order reminded me to accept gifts with grace. And the woman who stood outside the gate with me, telling me about her life in LA and photography, and then offered to help me find the baggage claim once we landed made me feel loved. Yup, even those strangers were vessels of hope for me in a place when I felt alone and anxious.
Even though these small acts of encouragement were sweet reminders, I doubted what I was doing. I didn’t believe those moments could be described as a walk in confidence, and it was all too easy to count the ways I was falling short.
:: :: ::
By the time I nestled into seat 15F on flight 451, and began talking to the MTSU volleyball players beside me, I needed to see the sky.
Here’s my confession: looking up at the sky always made me know there is a wonderful, powerful purpose in life that is much bigger than anything we could make of our own hands. It was actually that thought that led me to a place of curiously seeking life’s deepest longings and questions, and eventually being changed at the Answers.
In all the ways I’ve tried to steady my heart for this journey, I never once wondered what I would feel the first moments we left the ground to dive upwards into the sky that I’ve gazed at in wonder for so long. As we went further and further toward the clouds, I watched in awe at the moving world below me: the winding roads, the green lawns, the places of Nashville that I’ve driven past my entire life.
Now that I’m 40,000 feet above it, looking down at the big world below me has made me know: they were never works of my hands, but always works of His. My first thirty minutes in the sky were spent gazing outside the window, and knowing the reality of my Heavenly Father.
The clouds look too unreal and wonderful to be anything less than the work of One who loves and gives unceasingly. Since He can make the sky that echoes in my dreams, how can I say His purposes are anything less than good and perfect?
:: :: ::
Maybe confidence isn’t about knowing everything and doing it perfectly the first time. And maybe it’s not about walking with your head high, as everything and everyone around you bends to let you pass without flaw or worry.
Even when we don’t know what it looks like on the other side of the security line, even when we don’t know the people we’re about to meet, and even when saying goodbye is so hard— confidence does it anyway. It means we trust in the work of the Hands who crafted us perfectly to experience these moments for the glory of Him. We walk behind those walls and through those terminals, maybe not changing everyone’s world with a glance, but still holding our heads high in courage because we are doing the things that we want to believe we can’t do. And we are learning every step of the way that by Grace alone, yes, we can do it.
I think my prayers have asked for my heart to be prepared for this moment– this moment of awe above the clouds and the great reality of the things my heart most wants. And I want to know what comes next because this is wonderful.
Therefore, I’m continuing to ask for my heart to be prepared from 40,000 feet above the ground today. Maybe confidence isn’t such a bad guy after all.
:: :: ::
Saturday, July 30, 2016
I reread the summer’s journals today, and I shouldn’t be surprised that this became a reoccurring theme throughout the summer. I asked for confidence nearly every day.
Eventually, I penned it like this: Confidence is about not knowing how to do everything, but still pursuing it anyway because you know you’ve been called. It’s about fiercely trusting the path cut beneath your feet, even when you don’t know where it’s taking you.
I thought getting on a plane for the first time would be the only scary thing I would do this summer. Wrong. The days that followed would throw many more new, unknown territories—
lesson planning for the first time, meeting students and remembering all their names, learning how to navigate the public train system, sometimes learning the hard way about what is culturally acceptable and what is not, wanting to grow as a teacher– all of it. It was new. And it was beyond my comfort zone.
Once I scrapped the idea on that first plane ride that everything would happen perfectly the first time, my expectations changed and confidence became a daily trust-fall into my Father’s arms, knowing that He already knew how to catch me even before I could work up the courage to fall. It began on that first flight above the clouds and continued tens of thousands of miles, because here’s the thing: the coming moments could never be predicted. Who knew what conversations would come, how I would worry, and the people I would meet? Apart from Him, who could have known those things and what I was asking when I wanted my heart to be prepared?
“Confidence is perfection on the first try.” I’m going to call a lie on that right now. That’s what you believe if you never want to meet your expectations, and feel like you’re not good enough for the journey. And we are not those things. Honestly, who could ever want that to be true, other than the crafter of falsehood– our enemy– himself?
Be confident, my friends. Be scared of the big things. And do them anyways because you know there’s a way already prepared.