Lately God has been teaching me something that is so complex and yet so simple and it is really changing the way I live with Him. It is called “the confidence of Christ.” It is very old-school, 101 kind of stuff, but I don’t think I ever understood it. The confidence of Christ is all about having a total awareness of weaknesses and yet having more power than I have ever imagined. It is all about freedom to make mistakes. Here is one part of it:
If you’ve been watching the Olympics, no doubt you’ve heard about the scandal in the men’s gymnastics. The American Paul Hamm won the gold medal, but by a sliver of a victory, over Chinese and South Korean athletes, respectively. The South Koreans filed an appeal to the judges; their athlete had performed the same nearly flawless routine on the bars in his preliminaries and gotten a better score. This score that would have changed his outcome in the finals. He would have won the gold and not Hamm. The crazy thing about this whole scandal is that all of three of the athletes seemed to have won their medals as a matter of grace.
Hamm, who was predicted to win a medal, fell dramatically in his vault event. A succession of other gymnasts after him also fell unexpectedly, giving prime medal positionings to athletes whom no one expected to win. Before Hamm made his “comeback,” however, the top two spots were given to athletes who had performed admirably but not in that kind of glittering, soaring, perfection we’ve come to expect out of the top. In the end, it appears, no one who won the medals, really “deserved” them.
Why then, the sore losing?
It has something to say about our typical reactions to loss and failure. I felt like God was pointing out to me that the kind of confidence I stand on every day, the confidence that keeps me writing, keeps me growing, keeps me loving others, is the kind that rests on accepting my weaknesses.
There is a time coming for all of us when we will experience in an ongoing way a kind of supernatural power that almost rides over our failures; we will be feeling His power through the cross drive through us and accomplish things. We will take pleasure in watching Him overcome, and at the same time we will be noticing without shame our own inability to overcome.
Without shame is important, because we live in a world that has a theology of shame. You need to get yourself together before you do any spiritual good–that is the wisdom of the world. Some gymnasts were overheard saying that Americans were getting more than they deserved, part of the expected drama in the world feelings these days. But there is a prophetic tale here. It doesn’t matter what America deserves–it doesn’t matter what any nation deserves–or many would have crumpled into the sea by now. It matters what Jesus is trying to accomplish through us (and even now, it gives Him pleasure to watch America and all the nations shine and bring their best to the Olympics). We always think we are not supposed to fail, but this is where we actually are weakest, and wear the spirit of perfectionism comes in with its grimy little claws and tries to take our entire lives away. I have met people who spend their whole lives saying, “If only I had…” They never have understanding of why they “failed” in the first place.
The boys on the podium, whether or not they accepted their graces, are examples of standing wounded. We are always standing in our weakness. A failure is a podium–not something to wave around, but something on which we can build our dependency on Christ.
Hamm said, “I think it’s upsetting to some of the other gymnasts to see me win with a mistake…”
Let’s be honest with ourselves… are we upset to watch someone or something have victory if it has made a mistake? Almost all of us don’t like watching our enemies succeed, either.
Chances are, if we fail, our failures are given to us to make us victorious. Renounce your shame over them, stand and shine. Our walking in the confidence of Christ will be THE thing that will draw people to Him, and we will have to do it in the darkest of times, according to Isaiah 60. We will not be bright because we are perfect; we will be bright because we will have learned how to wake daily in the dying and resurrection of Christ, and this won’t just be a Christian platitude. It will be a walking reality. We will have to be okay with “winning… with a mistake.”
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.