Inspired Confidence

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In the old movie Bathing Beauty (1944) starring Red Skelton and Esther Williams, a eurhythmics instructor tells her dancers to carry themselves with a type of poise that she sums up with a mantra: “I have a secret; I am beautiful; I am beloved.” Although Skelton reduces her grand ideal to slapstick in his typical comic fashion, the motto itself is far from absurd. It captures, with reservations, a truth that really does inspire confidence.

“The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage” by Edgar Degas

In our humanistic society, people see confidence as a valuable trait. For example, many companies promote business practices that ‘empower’ their employees, and schools try to boost kids’ self-esteem, but that kind of confidence is easily shaken when circumstances or conditions change.

The only kind of personal confidence that can hold up under any kind of pressure is one that is based on an unchanging, unfaltering foundation. I don’t know any other foundation that fits these criteria except Jesus Christ Himself. In a saving relationship with Him, my life has poise for these reasons:

I have a secret: That I’m a coheir with Christ to an eternal inheritance that’s guaranteed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14).

I am beautiful: Because God the Father chooses to see Christ’s righteous record where my sinful one used to be (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I am beloved: Because God’s beloved Son has made me one with Him (John 15:9, 10; 17:20-23).

So yes, that funny old mantra speaks truth. It can inspire a degree of temporary self-confidence when taken at face value, but when viewed through the lens of Scripture, it inspires lasting Christ-confidence.

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No Betrayal Here

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When I first sat down to write this, I thought it was going to be a personal response to Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel. And I suppose it is. But it definitely came in a different way than I had expected. In the end it turned out to be a musing on the theme of trust, as related to Pimpernel of course.

Shortly after finishing Pimpernel, I was thinking about trust, and naturally the elusive title character came to mind. Everyone (except the “Frenchies”) trusted him implicitly. And why? Because his track record was excellent, he was above reproach, and he was too clever to fail. In the eyes of his followers, he was perfect.

My thoughts began to develop: Why do we love certain characters? Take for example Sherlock Holmes. Do we as readers ever doubt but that he will put everything to rights in the end? Or what about Perry Mason? When I watch the old television series from the 1950s and 1960s, I always feel calm if the other characters on the show confide in him or follow his counsel. And I have definitely wished for my own personal Jeeves (of the A&E television series, Jeeves and Wooster) on several occasions. His never-failing assistance and his ability to extricate Bertie from any predicament wins him the admiration of his young master and all Bertie’s wayward friends.

Once we find the answer to the first question, we will also have an answer for a second: Why do we loathe when our heroes get the short end of the stick? The very thought of Perry losing a case offends us. And do we not feel cheated when Irene Adler outwits Holmes in “A Scandal in Bohemia”? The answer to both questions is because we trust them. When they disappoint our confidence, we feel betrayed. What if Jeeves had not managed to thwart Roderick Spode and Bertie had been forced to wed Madeline Bassett? The idea rubs us the wrong way like so many children who pet cats backward.

To reign in my roving thoughts, I return to the Scarlet Pimpernel. Over and over again, Orczy emphasizes how much Percy’s friends trust him.

“Percy would thus not only be endangering his own life, but that of Suzanne’s father, the old Comte de Tournay, and of those other fugitives who were waiting for him and trusting in him. There was also Armand, who had gone to meet de Tournay, secure in the knowledge that the Scarlet Pimpernel was watching over his safety.”

“She knew enough about him by now to understand that he would never abandon those who trusted in him, that he would not turn his back from danger, and leave the Comte de Tournay to fall into the bloodthirsty hands that knew of no mercy.”

“But not only that, the much-trusted leader will also have been unconsciously the means of revealing the hiding-place of the Comte de Tournay and of all those who, even now, are placing their hopes in him.”

“When he has thus unconsciously betrayed those who blindly trust in him, when nothing can be gained from him, and he is ready to come back to England, with those whom he has gone so bravely to save …”

“‘Sir Percy Blakeney would not be the trusted, honoured leader of a score of English gentlemen,’ said Sir Andrew, proudly, ‘if he abandoned those who placed their trust in him. As for breaking his word, the very thought is preposterous!’”

“Sir Andrew knew that Blakeney would brave any danger, run the wildest risks sooner than break it, and with Chauvelin at his very heels, would make a final attempt, however desperate, to rescue those who trusted in him.”

“she could now so plainly see the strength, energy, and resourcefulness which had caused the Scarlet Pimpernel to be reverenced and trusted by his followers.”

I come now to Proverbs 3:5 — “Trust in the LORD with all your heart” (ESV). Any true Christian knows that this is one of the most difficult commands in the whole Bible to obey. Yet I think that God has put an inherent desire deep in the human heart, a desire to trust in something outside of ourselves that we know to be greater than ourselves. An inherent knowledge that we need Him. We want a Rescuer. We want to know that no matter how deep our troubles are, there is Someone who is able to pull us out.

I think that is why I like the Scarlet Pimpernel so much. And Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason and Jeeves. In them I see an imperfect representation of who God is, a clouded facet of His radiant character. Sir Percy may fall prey to the guillotine, and Perry may lose a client to the gas chamber, but my God will not be beaten. He is the absolute, uncontested victor. He is worthy of my unreserved trust, and He will never, never, NEVER betray the confidence of those who place their hope in Him.

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10, ESV)