Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Holy Boldness - An Encouraging Word

In his monumental work, Faust, Goethe has the protagonist, say, "Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

When I was a child, people in my rural Methodist Church used to speak of "holy boldness". I never knew exactly what that meant, but I assumed it was a kind of confidence you could experience when your spiritual life was in order. Some people said my grandmother, Callie, had it. If what I saw in her correctly expresses "holy boldness", then it is a beautiful thing. It is confidence without arrogance. It is gentle strength.

There are so many things that happen in life that can crush a healthy ego that one seldom sees true confidence expressed in beautiful boldness. Rather than live boldly, we often stand poised to fail and so we quantify things we set out to do by "maybe", "I will try", or "perhaps".

Back in the 1970s, the San Diego Chargers had a backup quarterback by the name of Bobby Douglass. Near the end of the season the Chargers were behind in a game 14-0 with less than two minutes to play. The coach was exasperated. He pulled the quarterback out of the game and sent in Bobby Douglass. Douglass was excited to have a chance to play! He grabbed his helmet and raced toward the huddle. About three-quarters of the way on to the field, he stopped suddenly and ran back to the bench. The coach threw up his hands in a "What now?!" gesture. Bobby Douglass breathlessly asked, "Coach, do you want me to win the game or just tie it?"

I don't know what ever happened to Bobby Douglass. Obviously, he never made it to the big time in the NFL, but I am sure he made it big time somewhere. He had the right attitude about how to handle a difficult situation. People who have confidence without arrogance achieve levels of success in living which elude the timid and tentative.

I love the story of the Irish priest who, while on a walking tour of his rural parish, saw an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road praying. Impressed, he said to the old man, "You must be very close to God". The old man looked up from his prayers, thought for a moment, then smiled and said, "Yes, God is very fond of me". Holy boldness - confidence without arrogance.

Children tend to be very confident about themselves and what they do until adults crush that confidence. Unkind put-downs, too many warnings, too much caution and too little support wound the creative confidence of a child in ways that continue to crush even in adulthood.

A kindergarten child was painting excitedly when the teacher asked her what she was doing. She said, "I am painting a picture of God". The teacher said, "Oh, my dear, no one knows what God looks like.", to which the child quickly replied, "They will know when I finish my painting.".

That is holy boldness. It is holy because God put it there. And in the name of all that is holy, don't crush it - please.