Are there any embarrassing moments from your past that still plague you?
I’m willing to bet that we all have a few.
There are a couple of incidents from my past that still have the power to turn my cheeks red–a nickname that didn’t quite mean what I thought it did, that time I brought what I now realize was the absolute wrong thing to my first-ever dinner party. The interesting thing about these two examples is that I didn’t find them embarrassing at all at the time. It’s only in hindsight that I think of these moments that way, and that’s because in looking back I only think of what other people must have thought of me at the time.
My embarrassment, my shame even, isn’t about anything I did or didn’t do, not really. It is simply about the way I looked to other people.
After being recently reminded of one of these old embarrassments, I started wondering what God might think about these moments I have accorded such power.
Is there something here for which I needed to ask forgiveness?
The answer surprised me. I concluded I had erred not in anything I had done in those times I was remembering but in how I perceived these incidents. The sin here was not wanting people to see me as young or naïve or not with it enough to even know I was both of these things. Being young and naïve isn’t a sin, not in and of itself anyway. The sin was caring more about what other people thought of me than what God did.
As a parent, I am often even more guilty of this. At times, I truly wonder if I care more about having other people think I am a good parent than actually being a good parent.
After all, if there was anyone ever who didn’t care much about what other people thought of him, it was Jesus. It seemed like everybody had a different idea about Jesus and who he was and what he came to do and who his message was for, yet he seemed remarkably unconcerned with correcting any of these conflicting ideas. In fact, he in general didn’t seem all too concerned about explaining himself to others. At least not in terms they could easily understand.
Of course, this is not to say that he didn’t care about other people. Just that he wasn’t too interested with impressing them with his excessive piety, his extensive knowledge, or even his miraculous healing abilities.
As is often the case, I see a lot more of myself in the Pharisees who were so confounded by Jesus. Here I am, not caring much about what the inside of my cup looks like as long as the outside is nice and clean. Or making a miserable face and not brushing my hair so everyone will know when I’m fasting. Here I am, worrying about how I look to other people rather than how I really am.
When will I truly be able to care more about what God thinks than what everybody else does?
So I ask God: What are the moments in my life that I should look back on with embarrassment?
I expect this answer to be painful. I expect God to show me some moments where I made the wrong choice, where I hurt someone else or forgot to think about what God wanted.
The thing is, as usual, God seems to have a real lack of interest in rubbing my nose in all the things I did wrong, although the list is legion. Instead I feel God guiding me to some of the places where I feel hurt and offering me healing. Instead I feel a sense of delight for simply turning to God.
As much as I’d like never to feel embarrassed again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with feeling embarrassed. It’s probably (yuck!) good for me. Surely God gave us cheeks that turn pink for a reason.
So I ask instead for the courage to laugh at myself and to continue to seek God’s perspective on these matters. And hope that, if I keep at it, my perspective will become a lot more like God’s.