My friends Mark Oborn and Steve Dillree are horsemen. Not cowboys -- horsemen. They are gentlemen, with white-collar professions, and they also know their horses. When I was president of the Young Women organization in our local church, I asked Mark if he would be willing to teach us a little bit about horse whispering. He and Steve have a reputation for knowing how to communicate with their horses without yelling at them or pounding on them. They graciously agreed.
On a beautiful Wednesday evening, in the warmth of early summer, we drove twenty-five teenage girls and a handful of leaders up to Steve’s place, where the corral and yard are pristine and idyllic. Mark asked us to sit on the grass. His horse stood calmly beside him. Mark spoke to us about how this magnificent creature communicates.
I’m not an animal person, I am sorry to say. I’m not sure why. Maybe it stems from having been bit in the eye by an Afghan hound when I was little. I try to fake it. I smile and make those little cooing sounds people make when they see a puppy, but it’s more often than not a façade. It kind of baffles me, because I consider myself a loving and caring person. So when Mark asked us all to come talk to his horse and gently stroke her head, I pulled out the faker in me. When my turn came Mark said “You aren’t comfortable with horses, are you?” I was surprised, because I thought I did a pretty good job stroking that muzzle and whispering sweet nothings. But Mark saw right through me, and so did his horse, I guess. I lacked confidence.
In his short discussion with us Mark talked about a thing he calls humble confidence. I loved that pairing of words. He spoke about the responsibility he had of being a steward over his horse. And since the beast was bigger than Mark, he needed to show the horse that his job was to follow the command of his master. And yet, the master needed to understand the nature of his servant, and know her personality. He taught us to approach the horse the same way we approach the Lord…with humble confidence. Confirmed in our own minds that we are capable, are called, and are empowered to act, yet respectful and teachable about it.
I quite like the juxtaposition of the traits humility and confidence. There is a natural response to someone approaching you with humble confidence; a trust that carries mutual respect. When I think of the people who surround me in my circle of love, I am in awe of their humble confidence, which has led them to success in their professions. Every one of my children is a trained professional: a teacher, a speech language pathologist, a doctor, and national director of a worldwide events organization. They are all amazing at their work; well respected, successful, accomplished. And they are all humble. Humble, in the most noble aspects of the word, which sort of boils down to their ability to recognize that we are all children of a divine being, which gives us divine potential…every one of us… and there is much we can learn from each other. My husband’s success as an attorney, a city councilman and mayor, and a judge was based on this natural instinct. He is not a schmoozer, and the politics of public service were, and still are, uncomfortable for him. My mother, and subsequently my sister, are accomplished and beloved real estate agents because they sincerely care about the people they serve, and try to incorporate their intelligence and expertise into the work, while still being down-to-earth and making their clients feel at home, so to speak. They all understand that confidence is necessary. But confidence without humility is merely cockiness. And who wants to work with someone like that?
I heard somewhere that confidence is remembered success. When one of my daughters left home I made her a pillowcase with that saying on it, so she would remember that she has many successes behind her, and there would be more to come.
My HOPE is that we recognize that our confidence is best used in the company of humility; that in humility we do not think less of ourselves, but that we think of ourselves less, and others more.
During the season of Lent I make the personal commitment to write every day. I’ve done this for the past eight years, as a token of devotion and thanks to the Lord for giving me a brain that works (usually). I publish these writings here on my blog, unedited and splattered like wet paint, as a way to share them and to keep them for myself and for my posterity. This year I have decided to ruminate on thoughts, ideas, habits and miscellaneous personal practices I would like to put in a figurative HOPE CHEST to take with me into the rest of my life and the life beyond. Besides that, there are bits of advice I would like to tuck into the HOPE CHESTS of my kids and grandkids.