I know folks who only see themselves in grandiosity. They are the heroes of their stories, and the world revolves around their needs. One of my fears is that I’ll become all that–a me monster of the nth degree. I shudder to think on a few stories, painful ones, where I realized I wasn’t all that.
Story one: Singing in California.
Story two: Embarrassed on a date.
I fancied myself a pretty good singer in high school and college. Now? Not really. I can find a harmony, sure, but I’m no professional. I have learned that God gave me the gift of singing pretty much so I would sing away my pain, worship Him with verve, and experience His presence as I did so.
One summer during college I worked in Ventura, California as a youth pastor. The church asked me to sing at one of the services. Thrilled at the chance, I practiced over and over again until I knew the song well. Problem was, I couldn’t hear myself on the day of the solo. The echoing walls of the sanctuary and the lack of a monitor meant I didn’t quite hit the notes right. I remember a sweet older person telling me, “One of your strengths is your rhythm, dear.” Meaning: you can keep a beat but you can’t hit the notes on key. Ouch. Yet, still. In that moment, I had to realize that I probably wasn’t made to sing for a living.
I’d been invited to be with the son of one of the high-ranked people in Washington state to attend the Word’s Fair in Vancouver, British Columbia. We were flown on a special plane there, and at one point, we’d attend a banquet. I was late into my college career by then, but made a fatal mistake. I took my “gown” from Senior Prom as my formal wear. Out of date. Completely wrong. But I remembered feeling pretty in that dress so I brought it. I will never forget how my date looked at me, as if I’d really screwed up choosing that dress. And the girl I sat next to at the formal banquet looked me up and down and said, “Interesting dress.” I wanted to cry. I think I did once I was alone that night.
Here’s the dress, folks. (Promise not to snicker. Yes, it was taffeta, light pink.)
Both stories start out well, with me thinking fairly highly of myself. I could sing. I had a “pretty” dress.
Both ended with realism. I missed notes. The dress was not only wrong, but obviously so. To everyone.
What did I learn from these windows of embarrassing moments?
I learned to let my pride slip. I learned humility. I learned to (eventually) laugh in retrospect. And as I think on these stories, I learn now to go easier on myself, not to take my talent or taste in clothing too seriously.
We fall down. We get up. That’s the holy rhythm of life on this fallen planet. Those two moments don’t define me. They are embarrassing, yes, but they don’t stop me from singing today or wearing a new outfit.
It’s your turn now. Share an embarrassing moment if you dare. Then share what you learned about yourself in retrospect.