I have had way too many humbling experiences in my life that have proven to me just how big an idiot I am. Humility is my middle name. Unfortunately, Pride is my first name. Let the internal duel begin.
My husband’s company Christmas party was this weekend and I was to meet all of his co-workers for the first time. I spent many hours fretting over which embarrassing fiasco I was going to get myself into that night. Were the straps on my homemade dress going to fall apart and leave me suddenly exposing my panty-hosed, strapless bra-squeezed torso in plain sight for all? How many times was I going to fall out of my new high heels? Was I going to open my big mouth and make fun of someone to their face, thinking I was being hilariously witty? The possibilities were endless. But ultimately, I hoped to make a grand impression – intelligent, beautiful, funny. In other words, I was delusional.
Fortunately, all that I managed to do was get my high heel stuck on a bar stool and rip the padding off of the chair’s foot rest. Mild, to say the least. And because no one was very interested in talking to me, I didn’t say anything I regretted. In fact, I hardly spoke at all that night. An on-the-verge-of-30 Christian stay-at-home-mom doesn’t have much in common with a bunch of single, 24 yr. old up and comers drinking gallons of alcohol at a business party. Especially since I’m klutzy and ditzy and I was homeschooled. Triple whammy.
But see, I’ve pretty much accepted this about myself. I always thought I was some sort of genius, in my own way, and I knew that if I had been able to go to college I could have been anything I wanted. My dream was to be a primatologist, but if not that, I would have liked to have been a doctor. Alas, time and experience has shown me that perhaps my brain is not performing at the full 10%. And even if it was, my bad luck would certainly hamper any chances of appearing intelligent.
The first, and perhaps mother, of all humbling experiences began when I was 16. I could mention the time in first grade when I peed my pants in front of three teachers, but at least then I was still cute. No, the curse really started at 16. I owned my own car, a 1987 Subaru. Funny thing about this particular Subaru was that it sometimes didn’t start when I turned the key. My dad discovered that by turning the car on, opening the hood, and touching a tire iron to two certain points in the engine at the same time, it sparked the engine to life once more. So I had to carry a tire iron around in the backseat, dreading turning off the car in case it decided not to turn on again.
My first time getting gas: I pull up to the tank at the very busy AM/PM on Greenwood Ave. in Bend, Oregon. Turn off the engine. Give the attendant 20 bucks to fill up my tank. Wait for him to be done. Turn the key. Nothing. Sigh. So I reach in the back for my trusty ole tire iron, pop the hood, and climb out of my car, trying to look nonchalant in front of the minivan parked facing me, filling up at the next tank.
As I reach my tire iron in and the engine whirs to life, I realize at that moment that I left the car in “drive” and it is slowly trying to run me over. Freaking out, I jump to the side, opposite of the driver’s seat (?!) and try to hold the car back with my superior strength. Funny thing about cars: they are much stronger than the average 16 yr. old girl, and I had to stand there helplessly while my Subaru crawled forward toward the minivan and bumped it in slow motion while the passengers watched in horror. Meanwhile, I’m crying, the gas station attendant hops in to my car and backs it up while another attendant pats me on the shoulder and the owners of the minivan, seeing no damage, give me a hug and tell me it’s okay.
But it’s not okay. And it’s never been “okay” since. Yet somehow I still clung to that “genius” idea in the back of my head. For years, even though all signs pointed to “NO”!
Until one day last year, when we had just moved to Palm Springs and I went out one sunny evening to get McDonalds for a treat for my family. I didn’t leave the house much anymore, and my social skills were a bit rusty. I ordered my food like an idiot, trying to remember what Justin liked and getting a look from the guy at the order window like I was one crayon short of a full box. I finally managed to figure something out, and when he handed me my change, I realized he didn’t tell me which window to pull up to next. So I pulled up to the second window and waited for a few minutes. It took far too long for me to see that this clearly wasn’t the place I was supposed to be waiting, so I edged up slowly to the third window, where three people were waiting for me, one to give me my food, and two to see who in the world the moron was that didn’t know how to use a McDonald’s drive-thru.
I didn’t cry on my way home, even though it hit me like a ton of bricks that I was not a genius. I was stupid enough to get laughed at by people who work at McDonalds! No, I didn’t cry until I got home and tried stacking a pop on top of my strawberry milkshake and spilled the milkshake all over myself and the car seat. I limped into the house, leaving a trail of melted pink ice cream up the sidewalk and threw myself, bawling, into my very surprised husband’s arms. It was the end of an era. Okay, so the era was just a figment of my imagination, but it was extremely humbling, nonetheless.
Now it seems like every time I leave the house I do something stupid. As I rush through stores, my brain is lagging behind, begging me to wait up. This is why I try to squeeze my cart through very narrow aisles and end up dragging entire clothing racks with me. Or I manage to park in the one space in the entire parking lot that has a curb in front of it and decide that day to pull forward instead of backing out of the space. Me in public ain’t pretty.
My pride is slowly being squeezed out of me, and thank God for it! He’s showing me more and more that I should care less and less what others think of me.
When I made myself some fresh-squeezed orange and carrot juice the other morning, I was suffering from a cold and a stiff neck, so I shuffled around the kitchen in my old sweats and greasy hair, with a heat wrap perched on the back of my neck. Suddenly the doorbell rang and I hit the floor like someone just started firing an AK-47 through the wall. I grabbed the kids and said, “Sh!” so they wouldn’t go running up to our glass front doors and give away the fact that somebody was home. I peeked around the kitchen island and saw it was the mailman, so I decided it was important enough to ignore the fact that I looked like a homeless person and to answer the door. I staggered to the front and opened the door. I thanked him for the boxes and closed the door, and went to take a shower. As I was waiting for the water to heat up, I looked in the mirror and stared in shock at the vibrant orange mustache lining my upper lip. Carrot juice leaves one heck of a skin stain.
But did this horrify me and make me never want to show my face to anyone again? No, I laughed hysterically all through my shower and promptly texted my husband and my mother about the awesome experience I just had.
Okay, so I don’t do well among cool people, or regular people at that. The Lord is making it pretty obvious that that shouldn’t be an aspiration for me. For example, at the office party, shouldn’t I have been more concerned with making a good impression for the Lord than making a good impression for myself? And shouldn’t a Christian actually not have to think about even that? It should be natural for me to represent the Lord, whether I’m purposing to or not, because I should be letting the Holy Spirit do all the work for me.
And everything else I do, well, that’s just me. Life would be pretty miserable if I couldn’t laugh at myself. And here’s a tip: when you see some unfortunate creature like myself make some awkward move, like running into a glass door, and the victim is laughing at themselves about it, laugh too. Don’t pretend you didn’t see. That just makes it so much worse.
Lord, there is no reason for me to desire to have this world think highly of me. I have “come to terms” with the fact that I do idiotic things, and I can laugh about them, but I have yet to stop caring what certain people think of me. Thank You that I have learned to laugh at foolish things I do, but please help me to not be ashamed to put myself out there for Your sake and make a fool of myself in front of people who may laugh at me, or mock me, for my faith. Keep me focused on the next life spent with You, instead of being preoccupied with the impression I make in this one.