Rachel Parsons, director of Cherish Uganda, stood under a tall tree in the red earth of Entebbe with her black skirt, white twin set, chignon and flip-flops.
I recognize that stance, I thought.
It had nothing to do with legs, feet or hips.
It was a heart stance. They way she stood in her story and the story of Cherish. The way she was comfortable and joyful and completely inspiring our group of SheLovelys.
She stood under the tree on nothing but red dust and dreams and yet she was painting a picture with her words of a future she’d already seen in her heart. A picture so vivid, we could see it too:
- A hospital and even a speedboat that could carry pregnant women to good health care.
- A piggery.
- A creative arts school.
- A next generation of visionaries and great storytellers, lighting up the world.
- A mobile library that could serve the greater community and make readers out of kids who before had only a death sentence.
On hearing about the mobile library, yes, Kelley and I were literally wiping away the tears. We like books. And we know how books can crack open new worlds, even–and especially here–in a small village in Uganda.
Such was the power of Rachel’s storytelling and her ability to paint the future with her words. We could catch a glimpse of the future. As if it already was.
Now, back on my couch in Canada, when I think of Rachel, I picture her on that red earth under that tree, standing in a radiant confidence.
This is the picture that has stayed with me and it’s been speaking to me.
You see, confidence is a tricky word for me. I even had it as my “one word” for the year way back in 2001.
Then why the bump up against this word, time and again? Stand in confidence? Eeeek. Watch me run.
Yes, I know I know I know it’s not standing in self-assurance, but in God assurance. I think my visceral reaction has to do with a very twisted understanding I (and we?) have of the word. That I somehow need to become someone else–this better, more polished, better dressed, always-having-the-right-word-at-the-right-time version of myself. Which I know isn’t going to happen. And if that’s what confidence is, I might as well stop the boat right now. I can’t get on. I’ve tried it. It’s too hard. I’ll be a fake and I’ll hate it.
Don’t give me any of that juice. And hand me my flip-flops, please.
That kind thinking makes me want to shut down my computer, put down my pen and defect from a life of purpose.
But … then I remember Rachel and how she stood in confidence and I clue in that it’s a very different thing.
And, heck, I actually know some of that thing.
It’s the heart position that says, I know when I stand here, in quiet knowing and a ridiculously tenacious faith–I trust and know that God will show up.
Yes, God may not show up in a way we anticipate, but standing in my place–under my tree of Life and purpose, in my flip-flops or Toms or bare feet–God meets me here.
It requires a kind of lockdown. Bulldog grip. A gracious immoveability.
And we can all know that thing and stand or sit under our tree, like Rachel does and Deborah did, because it’s a heart thing. It’s a heart stance.
I know this heart stance. I do stand here. It’s the stance that says, I have seen God move too many times to not trust right here. It’s my spot. The place where I just need to show up, hang out and stand my ground. In all my quirky and imperfect self-ness.
I also remember that standing there has less to do with my inner strength and more to do with trusting our God. Like the word itself says, if confidence is not rooted in a fidere–a faith–in the God who meets us here, then it’s no confidence.
Two weeks ago, Anne-Marie and Heather asked me, in different places and slightly different versions: How did you get the courage to start SheLoves? You can read my response in the comments on Anne-Marie’s beautiful post. I carried this dream for 13 years and learned and unlearned much, so it might call for a longer response.
But what I want to say here, is that much of the courage (heart strength, in the Idelette dictionary) came out of this:
1. Finding my place. The thing I was meant to do and wanted to do.
2. Catching a glimpse of the bigger picture–God’s heart for the world, including justice, Love and equality.
3. Then simply taking my place. Standing under my tree, heart and purpose aligned with God’s big story.
I remember how hard it was for me to talk about the dream and not feel foolish. It was hard to own the fact that I had seen something in the dark, something that was not yet visible or fully understood. I could make out fragments of it, but I had no idea what the complete picture looked like. (I still don’t!) I had to swim in the dark, look at the dream from all angles, learn from others who’d been swimming in the dark too, and I needed to trust that this God who was showing me this picture, would unveil all I needed to see, in good time.
This life–this standing–is a faith walk. A deep trust in the God who trusts us with these seeds of beautiful dreams.
Greatness emerges when, above all else, people are confident. When we believe—together—that life is good, God is good and humanity is good, we become very safe and salutary people for others. We do exciting and imaginative things because we are confident that we are a part of a story line that is going somewhere and we want to be connected to something good. - Hope Against Darkness, Fr. Richard Rohr
It is hard and it is good.