Something happened last week, and all weekend I've been pretending that it didn't. But it did. I had lunch with some friends. They know me in my work life mostly. Somehow my blog came up. They didn't know I wrote a blog. I told them the name of it; their eyebrows raised. When I got back to my office, I forwarded the link to them. And that's when it happened.
I felt embarrassed. I wished I could recall the email with the link. I actually even looked up under "Help" how to do it. I needed help. I'd done something totally embarrassing and I wanted to take it back. What was I embarrassed by? The last entry on my blog, which set forth my vision, purpose, and core values. And, perhaps you didn't read the last entry, but those are as follows:
Vision: to be more like Christ.
Purpose: to bring glory to God.
Core values: to love God and to love others.
I couldn't stand the idea that these friends would read that what defines me is my relationship with God. My guiding principles, my reason for being, where I wanted to go, all centered on my Savior. My legs bounced under my desk. I started to sweat. I cringed with what they would think, how they would laugh. Oh, what must God have thought as my body and soul betrayed him in my embarrassment? How must I have broken his heart as this feeling rose up from somewhere deep inside me and in one fell swoop, I wanted to recall my devotion, all I have said, all I have declared?
Why was I embarrassed anyway? Thinking about it now, I want to curl up in a ball; or fall on my knees and cry out to God: "Forgive me! Forgive me!"; or tell everyone I've previously told I'm a believer/follower/lover of Christ that I'm a fraud. How can I possibly call myself a follower of Christ and be embarrassed to tell anyone that my vision in life is to be more like he was? I needed forgiveness and I needed to know that someone somewhere in the world had felt this before, just so I could know that I'm not the only fraud on the planet.
Then I remembered reading a Frederick Buechner sermon called The Sign by the Highway. I bought a book called Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons, which includes 37 of Buechner's sermons. I've read just a few and today I wonder whether I bought this book just for The Sign by the Highway. God knew I'd need it. In this particular sermon, Buechner tells the story of a man, who, while driving on the highway, sees a hand-painted sign that says: "Jesus Saves." And the man, upon seeing this, winces with embarrassment. I wonder if you would too? Buechner explains his view about why when we see a sign that says "Jesus Saves," we wince with embarrassment. But, he might as well have been teaching about why we wince with embarrassment after (mistakenly) telling those we call friends that "Jesus saved me", or, "hey, I write a blog about God's grace."
The reason, I have now concluded, is the same. As Buechner explains: to admit that Jesus saves (or that you have been saved by Jesus) is to admit that you needed to be saved. Go back and read that sentence again. Or, here, I'll just write it again: To admit that Jesus saves (or that you have been saved by Jesus) is to admit that you needed to be saved.
Now, I would stand up at church and say I needed to be saved to 5,000 people, or 7,000, or however many you put before me. But to have me say this at work, to say it to those before whom I am to be strong, makes me wince with embarrassment. What is valued in my profession (and perhaps in life) is strength, aggression, independence. You DO NOT show weakness. If you need to be saved, you have failed. So, this was part of it, but only part of my embarrassment.
You know what the rest of it was? Wow, does this make me sick to my stomach (and Buechner gets this spot on): I wonder if it might have been the first time I really felt myself, that I needed to be saved. I mean, when you make the declaration at church or around others who are followers of Christ (who have made the same declaration), or even in your bedroom alone after church (which is what I did), it is easy to skip over the deep recognition I think; that thing where you actually feel what you know in your head. I have known in my head for the last just under two years that I needed to be saved, that I was living far from God and only by putting my life into Christ's hands could I be reconciled in my relationship to God. I knew this. There have been many many times for sure when it struck me how much I needed Christ in my life, how much better my life is since I decided to devote my life to him. But if I'm being totally honest, I don't know if, until this last week, I really FELT the need, you know, in the pit of my stomach, at the back of my eyes, in the part of my heart that only God has seen. I have FELT the joy of being saved. I have FELT the exhilaration of God's work in my life. Had I felt the need to be saved, though? This is a big deal. I'm telling you. It is humbling in a way that nothing else is. I needed to be saved. I am not strong enough, or smart enough, or good enough. I needed a savior.
So, to admit this out loud for all to see and feel embarrassed is not really to be embarrassed that Jesus Saves, but that Jesus saved me . . . because I needed to be saved.
Do you know what the best part about this whole experience has been? Knowing that I need a Savior and my Savior has come. Praise God.