“I have confidence in me,” Maria sang in the Sound of Music, upon returning to her job as governess, only to deflate at the gate of the mansion. I could identify with her, and envied people who seemed sure of themselves. It was difficult to believe in my own abilities, for I had this pre-conceived idea that being confident was similar to being proud - not a Christian trait.
Always trying to measure up to other people’s expectations, I became a people pleaser, and hoped they would like me. Boldness was something alien to my character.
And then God called us to Israel. Together, my husband and I worked and lived amongst people who seemed to exude confidence from every pore of their body. It wasn’t always easy to deal with these assured, bold Israelis, who were so different from the polite Dutch. The Lord led us to become a foster family of special needs children. Society’s ‘voiceless’, forced me to speak up for them, to fight for their wellbeing. I did, but with fear and trembling.
We learned the in’s and out’s of Special Education, the way hospitals worked, and experienced the bureaucracy and red-tape firsthand. It taught us patience, and awareness of our constant need of God’s grace and wisdom. I felt so incompetent, for I didn’t speak Hebrew very well, struggled to understand how things worked around here, and made many mistakes.
Trying to be a super-mum, resulted in burn-out. During the recovery time, I read about people who had been there, and how God changed these insecure, fearful people. I was like them - confident on the outside because of the children, but on the inside always doubting if I did it right, made the right decision. And dealing with that ever present nagging question: what would people think?
God changed me, slowly, gradually.
For 10 years, Nadia had been in the School for the Deaf, which had been a good choice for her. But as her health deteriorated, I saw the need to change schools.
“But we know best how to deal with these deaf children. She will feel left out in another school!” the school staff objected.
“Might be,” I retorted, “but here she can’t participate in school activities, and often has to stay home. She’ll learn to cope among hearing people who don’t know sign language.” I was shocked by my own boldness.
In the past we had sent our children to the wrong schools, causing unnecessary stress. This time, I was going to fight for what I felt was right. For years I listened to these so-called experts, whom I thought knew what was best for the child. Now I realized that as a (foster) mother, I knew the children better than anybody else. Our social worker backed me up, and the Deaf school reluctantly let Nadia go. It was a difficult transition, but she survived, and the new school fit her needs perfectly. I had stood my ground. Finally.
During one of the many visits to the Emergency Room, a senior doctor said,
“Well, mama, you tell me about your daughter. I’ve never seen this syndrome before – you’re the expert!”
I blushed, but it made me think. It dawned upon me that I acquired the authority to speak up, because I ‘earned’ the wisdom and insight as a mother of these special children.
My husband often said he hardly recognized the meek, quiet and shy wife he married 27 years ago.
I ‘blame’ it on Israel, for here I learned to speak my mind, instead of swallowing everything and suffering the consequences. Learning to say no to people, and not having to explain, was also a wonderful, freeing experience.
Philippians 1:6 says, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
When I gave my life to Jesus, He began that good work in me. Through many painful experiences, God taught me numerous lessons. I am confident that He will continue to lead and guide me, and mold me into His likeness.
Perhaps it’s the natural process of getting older and ‘wiser’ (I turned 50), but as a ‘work in progress’, I trust that heavenly promise. Surely and confident, in Him, I continue to do the work God has given me.
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