Quiet Confidence

It’s been a few days since I have sat still long enough to put words to paper here on small points of light.  In spite of the heat and humidity of a Virginia summer, the only place I wanted to be this morning was on my morning walk.  I wanted to breathe in the quiet breath of nature before most people were even awake; I wanted to walk reverently under the cathedral of dew-heavy trees forming a canopy over my walking path.  My morning doves met me at my door, their song tugging at my soul and reminding me that Divine Presence is always there, always beckoning me.  These past few days, small points of light have indeed been vast and abundant.

And yet, there is not a lot I can say about that right now.

I have to admit, it’s a challenge for a blog writer who thrives on stories of God in the ordinary to keep quiet when there are amazing stories to be told. But, there are also very good reasons to put our story sharing on hold sometimes. Confidentiality around a well-timed process is my good reason right now, reflecting a professional and moral code I have always chosen to honor.

As I walked this morning, allowing the divine serendipity and synchronicity of the week to fully settle into my spirit, it did occur to me that there is a small point of light in quiet confidence itself.

For any other social workers and helping professionals out there, “confidentiality” can become a rote necessity. Confidence is kept, or it is violated and that can seem like a black and white matter of ethics. But, we know from life, journalistic media, social media, whistleblowers, and inside informants that society has many double standards around what we mean by “confidential.” Today, the words that filled my spirit as I walked were “quiet confidence.”

As a social worker, I realize that a lot of what I do is to give and receive the gift of quiet confidence. Whether a client, a student, a research participant, a colleague: information shared with quiet confidence becomes a gift of our exchange, expressing the vulnerability and trust within our relationship. Quiet confidence means we acquiesce to that sharing and know in body, mind, and spirit that someone else is holding with us through a situation or experience in our lives. This is a deep gift of mutual trust.

Many of us really only learn the true value of confidentiality when we experience a breech in that trust. We learn that information has been shared, some vulnerability we dared to express has been leaked, or some precious but private piece of ourselves has been exposed. It can take months, years, decades to return to a state of quiet confidence, and sometimes things can never truly feel right again. I know that pain, and so do many people I know.

As I walked today, I realized that a quiet confidence is deeply and divinely present in my soul. The melancholy beauty of this chorus of doves above me this morning reminded me that it has not always been this way. I realized, deeply, that the return of this quiet confidence is a profound gift. Crossing the threshold of forgiveness allowed me to risk trust…not just with selected individuals or groups who had “earned” it, but with larger community, with institutions, and with God. The vulnerable trust of the broken to hold ourselves open is an invitation to grace. We don’t have to earn it, or deserve it. We simply unfold within it. That has been, and continues to be, my experience of living in Divine Presence.

Quiet confidence.

On this day, I happen to be holding quiet confidence around something exceedingly joyful. But, my realization in the quiet hours of this morning is that quiet confidence is, in itself, exceedingly joyful. It means we are seen and known, trusted and loved, respected and honored for exactly who we are and exactly what we bring to this celebration of daily experience we call life. Today, I hold in my heart the joyful and quiet confidence that this day, lived in Divine Presence, will be all that it is meant to be. As I have learned this week, these small points of light are often leading to more than I could ask or imagine.

I have blogged about my favorite poem from Rilke before, but I think its worth repeating today, as I unfold in quiet confidence:

I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing–
just as it is.
I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones–
or alone.
I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy, lurching image of you.
I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.
I would describe myself
like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

-Rainer Maria Rilke
from Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. I, 13. Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy, trans. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996, 2005.

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
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