Thoughts on Embarrassment

Journal 2005

As I approached a group of friends gathered around my kitchen table, I tripped and fell to my knees. Red-faced, I gathered my dignity and tried to laugh it off. But why should I feel embarrassed, I thought?

When I’m embarrassed, I tend to hide behind a mask, cover with a nervous laugh, or pretend I don’t care.

Embarrassment is often rooted in pride: What are they thinking of me?

Embarrassment may be a result of feeling exposed and vulnerable. This is especially true for someone who’s molested.

Embarrassment can also carry shame messages: I am less than, I am clumsy, I can’t do anything right.

Can I be embarrassed FOR someone else? For example, if I watch someone who is ignorant of cultural mores, I may assume they’re feeling (or should be feeling) embarrassment for their actions. In realty, what I feel is a reflection of my own embarrassment: If I were in their shoes, I’d feel embarrassed.

I decided my reaction to my stumbling foot was a simple case of pride and let it go. My friends were more than solicitous.

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Atlas and Ant Bites

Journal 2005.

I had a God-orchestrated event today. A lady in upstate New York somehow found my name on the Internet and called me about her suicidal daughter who had just moved to our town. The young lady had set the date to take her life and was putting her affairs in order. I gave the mom our local suicide hotline number, the name of a counseling center in town, and permission to pass along my phone number. Four hours later, the daughter called me. We talked and prayed for almost two hours. At the end or our session, with hope in her voice, she said about her suicide date: “Jesus says it’s about life, not death.” Wahoo!

Now here’s the subtle irony. God orchestrated the entire event. All I did was pray and God showed up. He even gave me the gifts and training to know what to do, but Satan’s little lies whispered in my ear, “See what you did? You just saved a life! Aren’t you good?”

Immediately I recognize the voice of pride. I’m Atlas, brawny enough to hold up the world, while others are puny little ants crawling on its surface. [How sick is that!?] Soon those biting ants swarm over my arms and legs, and when I set the “world” down so I can scratch, I discover I’m not balancing it after all. There’s a power source, an air current beneath, making it twirl and dance. I had actually been blocking the airflow when I stepped under the sphere. Sheepishly, I realize the orb is not the world after all, but a toddler-sized, lightweight beach ball.

Now what to do with the ant bites? I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins . . .”

Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? (Isa. 40:13 NIV)

It’s laughable to think we can counsel each other—apart from God’s wisdom. And even more preposterous to think we could counsel God.

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The Missionary Measuring Stick

Journal 2005

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18 NIV, when Jesus prayed for His disciples)

When I was growing up, missionaries loved to quote this verse and others like them to 1) guilt-trip Americans to become missionaries or 2) prove their pride in obedience to God’s command.

Here’s where my struggle has been for so long—believing that missionary life and calling is holier, better, and higher than any other calling. That was the message I grew up with. But after hearing story after story of nasty, ungodly missionaries, my bubble has burst. I have to take missionaries off that pedestal.

We were taught “sent into the world” doesn’t have to mean “sent to Africa.” It can mean “sent across the street to your neighbor,” but in the back of my child’s mind, that was not as spiritual or as high a calling as being sent to Africa. If you got sent to Africa, your measuring stick of importance was much longer than your measuring stick that only reached across the street.

The truth is, it’s not about works; it’s about relationship. It’s not about how many times I pray, go to church, tithe, read my bible, witness, do, do, do—but rather it’s about how much I love Jesus, and even more importantly, how much He loves me.

A 2022 Update. I almost didn’t post this entry because I am so very far removed from this mindset now. But perhaps in some circles the attitude is still present. Just substitute a different vocation or status (education, economic status, political clout, race). Any time I view myself as superior, it’s time to check in with humility.

Choices, Consequences, and Character

From my  2012 Journal. A study of two men (II Kings 5)

Jordan River today

The story: A little girl is taken captive from Israel and placed in the service of a lady whose respected husband Naaman is a commander of the Syrian army. One day Naaman is diagnosed with leprosy and the servant girl tells her mistress that healing is possible back in her home country. By a circuitous route, Naaman winds up at the prophet Elisha’s doorstep. Elisha sends his servant Gehazi out the door to instruct Naaman to dip 7 times in the Jordan River. Naaman is ticked off (the dialogue is quite comical) and stomps away. But in the end, he obeys and gets healed.

Next, Naaman returns to Elisha’s house to reward him for this healing gift, but Elisha refuses to accept anything, and Naaman drives away in his chariot. The servant Gehazi, meanwhile, runs after Naaman, tells a fib, and walks away with some loot and hides it in his house. For this indiscretion, God inflicts leprosy on him. Talk about irony!

Naaman’s issue? Pride. He believed that God could heal him, but he expected God to perform in a certain way. When God didn’t meet his expectations, he got angry, but he eventually humbled himself. He made the right choice in the end.

Gehazi’s issue? Greed. But his one indiscretion left his life in ruins. (I wonder if he attempted a 7-dip trick in the Jordan to get rid of HIS leprosy!?)

So here’s a foreigner who gets a gift from God and an Israelite who gets punished. Why?

Lesson:  It’s really about what’s in the heart. Actions matter—we live with the consequences of our decisions. But if we guard our hearts, we suffer fewer consequences for poor choices.

Lesson:  It’s not who you’re living close to that determines your character. Naaman lived in a position of power under an ungodly, idol-worshipping king. Gehazi lived in a position of servitude to a godly prophet.

Is God Proud or Humble?

From my 2009 Journal. Webster has several definitions for pride including the negative synonyms of “haughty” or “arrogant” or “puffed up.” A proud person in this sense is ego-centric and egotistical. He is like someone strutting around with a blindfold on, thinking he’s a peacock, when all along he’s a naked chicken. If you take his blindfold off, he’ll feel exposed and run for cover. Somehow we’ve attributed a negative connotation to this bird: “proud as a peacock.” But I think the small-minded chicken who coined this phrase was just jealous!

God is not proud according to this definition. “Puffed up” cannot apply to God because He cannot get any bigger.

Is God humble, then?

Humility is having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance. It is attributing all to someone else of higher rank, and God can’t do that. Humility has no reference point or meaning for God because there is no one higher than He. Humility acknowledges that power and glory belong to a higher power. God IS the higher power.

Pride and humility are terms that are understood because they are relative to a different standard. God is His own standard.

However, a second definition of proud is “a sense of one’s own dignity or worth.” When I look at God, He is a peacock—majestic in all His splendor and worthy of admiration and “oohs” and “aahs.” He’s not showing off. He just IS. Beautiful, magnificent, splendor-filled, majestic, full of awe, unlike any other being in the universe, take-your-breath-away gorgeous.

By Definition #2, we could conclude that He is indeed proud: proud of His creation and having a self-awareness of His true identity.

What do you think?

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I’m a Recovering Pharisee

You will never understand the heart of a Pharisee unless you realize that he sees the plank in his eye as belonging to others (Erwin Lutzer in Who Are You to Judge?)

eye plank

From my 2016 Journal. I am a recovering Pharisee. I identify more with the law than with grace, with Martha more than Mary, with the big brother rather than the prodigal son, with self-righteousness over God’s righteousness. Had I been at the synagogue the day Jesus healed the crippled woman (Luke 13), I would have been the Pharisee condemning Jesus for working on the Sabbath. Self-righteousness is my continual default. I cringe when I read this verse:

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: (Luke 18:9 NIV)

Thankfully, I’ve come a long, long way in shedding my Pharisaical robes, but I’m not there yet—and won’t be until I get to heaven. Whenever I think that I’m “better than” I’ve crossed the line into self-righteousness.

So, I explore this thought:  If I choose the God path, does that make me superior to those who choose to resist God? My inner Pharisee says yes. But I know that is arrogance.

I am responsible for my own faith, my own choices, my own reactions and responses. I don’t know another person’s heart—not really. We are each accountable to our own master—be it God or Satan or money or pain. Since I’ve chosen God as my master, then I only answer to Him. It is not my job to judge another person’s choices or motives. I might know and recognize that they’ve chosen a poor master, and I can urge them to reconsider their choice, but they may be bound in chains and may not know that freedom is available to them. Why get upset and rage at them for not opening their eyes—when they are truly blinded by the god of this world and cannot see until the God of Heaven opens their eyes.

Lord, remove all stubbornness, pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, and feelings of superiority from my heart. Give me the heart of the sinner who beat his breast and begged God for mercy.

 

Sibling Rivalry

sibling rivalry

Yes, this was staged by my grandsons. They are actually perfect little angels, of course.

Every evening after supper, my dad would lead us in family devotions. After reading a portion of Scripture, each person, starting with the youngest, was expected to say a prayer. Too young, perhaps, to come up with my own, Dad would prompt me: “Help me not to fight with Grace Anne and Paul!” Thankfully, any sibling conflicts we had as children have long been resolved and forgotten, and we three sibs feel only love and adoration for each other today. But not every family is so fortunate.

The famous David and Goliath story (I Samuel 17:29) begins with David’s dad Jesse sending him to the Philistine battleground with food and supplies for his older brothers. David arrives at the site, sees Goliath, and starts asking questions. Eliab, David’s oldest brother, gets angry and attacks him verbally, sarcastically. And David responds with, “What have I done now? Was it not a harmless question?”

You wonder how long this sibling conflict has been going on. We can only imagine, but I suspect that Eliab is sore that David got anointed king instead of him, the firstborn. There’s hurt, pride, and jealousy.

And David? It’s not his fault that he’s been chosen by God. It’s inevitable, it seems, that others will criticize, put down, and try to discourage God’s anointed one. But David did not take pride in his own strength; instead he gave the credit to God: The LORD delivered me from the bear and the lion . . . and He will deliver me from this Philistine.

The Result:  God replaced the curses of his big brother with the blessings of a new and better brother:  Jonathan.

It’s interesting to note that after David flees from King Saul, his family (including his brothers), hear of it and come to him. I wonder what Eliab thinks of him now? And how will he feel when David becomes his ruler?

Do you have a sibling (or a sibling in the Lord) who has shunned you, picked on you, or criticized you?  Or maybe you’re jealous that your sister or brother got all the attention, good looks, and talents. How do you respond?

I’m a One-Talent Gal

From my 2007 Journal. There’s a parable in Luke 19 that has always bothered me. A man goes on a journey and entrusts five talents to one of his servants and expects him to double the gift. He gives two talents to another and expects him to double that, and one talent to the third, “each according to his ability.” Of course the punchline of the parable has to do with the one-talent guy burying his money instead of investing it. But my mind goes to the amount of the gift given in the first place. It seems unfair somehow. I personally don’t want the responsibility of doing the work to multiply five talents, but I’d like to receive the reward for doing so! But you can’t have the one without the other.

I have this feeling that I’m one of the one-talent recipients and I better make the most of it. Yet somehow I equate value or worth with the fact that I’ve only been given one. Why?

AwardI think it goes back to boarding school, Grade 9. I don’t recall anymore what all the qualifications were, but the most coveted award for the end of the school year was “Best, All-round Girl/Boy Award.” I’m sitting on pins and needles waiting for the names to be called out. I want it so bad I can taste it. But when I’m given the award, I have mixed emotions. My pride (God forgive me) steps up to the plate and says I deserve it.

On the other hand, I see the shock and disapproval on someone’s face and I feel like a fake—apparently she didn’t think I deserved the award. I knew I was NOT the most talented, nor was I the most gracious. I was stuck up and prideful. I felt like I had hoodwinked the staff who had voted for me, but my peers knew better. That award belonged to someone else who was more talented than I and who certainly had a better attitude. I felt exposed, naked, ashamed. But I held my head up high and marched to the front of the auditorium to receive that precious little piece of metal.

I have long since repented of my pride, and God has covered me with His righteousness, but I still have to address the thought that I may have only been given one talent. Am I willing to accept God’s gift, no matter how small or how large and be faithful to serve Him with it? Today my answer is YES!

How many talents do you believe God has given you and why? And is it prideful to admit you have more than one?

To Give or Not to Give?

Do right till the stars fall—just do right. (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.)

stars-sky-background_23-2147493609.jpgSome people love it; I find it a chore. Coming up with gift ideas for Christmas each year for the family just sends me into a tizzy. One year I finally got smart and relegated that task to husband Scott and daughter Sharon whose love languages include gift-giving. Now everyone is happy!

I realized something about myself, though, and I don’t like what I see. I have a stingy streak in me—born, I’m sure, out of forced frugality—but when it continues even if there are resources, it speaks ill of my character. I made a decision some time ago not to give a gift when I should or could have. Now that I’m convicted about it, it feels very awkward to go back and give it. What to do? Pride wants to save face. Honesty hurts. I feel bad—ashamed—and don’t know how to rectify it.

Jesus says, “It’s never too late to do right.”