Do humility and confidence go together? A spiritual lesson on the water.

This summer, I’ve been serving in my capacity as a Christian Science practitioner at several summer camps all across the United States.  It’s certainly been a wonderful, fulfilling and inspirational summer.  One event in particular stands out to me, as a lesson in the co-existence of humility and confidence.

One of the camps I worked at has just recently built a new lake, and installed a short cable tow system, for wakeboarding and kneeboarding.  I’ve wakeboarded in the past, behind a boat, and I was very confident that I would be cruising up and down this towline in a second.  Several other folks went before me, and seemed to pick up the knack of turning a 180 degree turn (to allow a ride back down with the cable) fairly quickly.  Soon enough, it was my turn.  I went skimming down the line, enjoying the feel of unity with the water.  At the end of the run (a fairly short dash, really) I prepared to turn around and ride back down, and promptly sank.  No worries, I tell myself – I can certainly get it next time.  I just need to try harder.

So I did.  I tried harder and harder – and I was getting more and more frustrated.  I was also a little embarrassed to have my wife and my good friend Sean, who was spending his afternoon teaching me and others, watching me fail time and again.  I knew that I knew how to wakeboard, so why couldn’t I get it?

At one point, floating in the water near the dock, I just got quiet.  For a moment, I simply stilled all the frustration and listened.  Right away, I heard my friend’s voice, telling me how to make the turn.  I turned to listen more closely – and realized that he had in fact been trying to tell me what to do every time I’d come around.  However, I’d been so focused on my own thought and my own history of wakeboarding that I had been disregarding his instruction.  He never gave up on me though!

As I listened, I realized that the maneuver I needed to make was, in fact, unlike anything I had ever done before on a wakeboard – but rather than scaring me off, it inspired me to listen all the more closely and not rely on my own knowledge at all.  I got back up, and although I still didn’t make the turnaround, I immediately listened again for my friend calling to me, responding to what I had done.  I got back up, and proceeded to make the next three turnarounds.  For the remainder of the evening wakeboarding session, I got more and more smooth with my rides and turns, and ended the evening on a very happy note.  I was elated!

As my wife Lindsey and I walked back up to the main lodge, I was filled with gratitude for the afternoon.  Yes, I was pleased that I’d had a successful learning session, but I was so much more grateful for the spiritual insights gained.  First and foremost, it was so clear that the success came when I quieted my own sense of how things were and how they needed to be done, and listened to my experienced friend.  This was a crystal clear illustration of how all of life could be lived.  When I’m willing to quiet my own thought, and not be impressed with or wrapped up in the turbulence, fear, or even the evidence of the physical senses, that’s when I hear God.  And, like this evening with my friend, it’s not me being quiet that suddenly makes God speak.  His tender love is always present, informing me of the reality of every moment.

In this afternoon of wakeboarding, my history of wakeboarding turned out to be irrelevant.  I had to let go of what I assumed or “knew” about the situation, and let my friend guide me.  Likewise, in whatever situation I may be in, if I’m making decisions based off of history or even the present evidence of the senses (be it a sense of accident, financial struggle, or just abstract sadness), I suppose I could be fascinated with that as long as I liked – but that evidence is irrelevant to the truth of God’s work.  We’re assured so poetically in Genesis 1:31 that, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”  VERY good!  God didn’t later come in, and have someone else come in, and edit His work.  God did a perfect job with ALL of His ideas – you, me, the environment, your neighborhood, your pets…even an afternoon opportunity to wakeboard.  I gained a deeper appreciation for the importance of being still and listening to what my dear Father-Mother, God, is informing me of, in every circumstance.  To me, this is the essence of humility – being willing to abandon what I’ve previously trusted, and listen (and follow!) what divine Love says.  A writer in the Bible puts it this way: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Another aspect of this evening for which I was profoundly grateful is that along with listening to, and trusting, my friend, I had to understand that I could accomplish what he was instructing.  Now, this confidence certainly wasn’t going to be rooted in history – I had been falling all afternoon.  I was also beginning to feel a tired, so I wasn’t too confident in my own personal strength.  But a really neat thing happened.  The calm, loving way in which my friend instructed me made me very peaceful, and rather than worrying about if I was GOING to be able to do it, I simply DID it.  The simple facts of how to make the turn were already established; the science behind wakeboarding was already established; I simply could see how it all worked together.  Rather than worrying about how to make my turn in 10 seconds, I let myself trust the instruction I’d been given and just lived it out.

Likewise, the spiritual laws of God, all stemming from His nature as divine Love, are already established.  I don’t need to be confident in my own ability to do anything – to heal, be a good friend, be a quick learner, or pay bills.  I simply need to actively trust and follow what I’ve heard in those moments of stillness, and be confident in those divine laws of God, which include all harmony, security, and health.  In my study of Christian Science, I’ve learned that, in our true selfhood, we all are the effect, or outcome, of God.  Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, writes in her textbook of healing, “Man is not God, but like a ray of light which comes from the sun, man, the outcome of God, reflects God.” (Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, page 250, line 12)  Thus, as the outcome of God, we all naturally include all the laws and harmony of God.  This doesn’t engender a boastful or bragging “confidence” in oneself; it simply illuminates the deep confidence we can all have in the immediacy of God and all that He is.

I’m so grateful for the lessons learned in that one afternoon!  It fired me up to be more aware of the illustrations of divine Love, and the lessons available, in every moment.  I’m deeply grateful, too, for the immediate everpresence of good, infinite, complete, and all.

2 thoughts on “Do humility and confidence go together? A spiritual lesson on the water.

  1. Dear John –
    Thanks so much for this very helpful illustration of how we just need to trust God, his direction for all events in our life: physical, financial, relationships, – everything. If we can just surrender our own ideas of how things should work out and ask our loving, dear Father/Mother what wonderful plan He has for us and – then – follow that leading. He knows our need and supplies it.
    Loved being with you at Association and treasure the pictures Robert took of you and the other friends.
    Helen – in SF

  2. Hey John. Great article. I too, am trying to “hear” God speak to me, whether it’s a thought, a feeling, a person, or whatever form it takes. I guess in this situation, it was God speaking through your friend. I’d love to hear other situations of how God spoke to you and what you did to quiet the other distractions coming in.

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