I licked the peanut butter frosting around the entire rim of a cookie sandwich. I did this in the car, shamelessly, at a stoplight on my way home from a prayer meeting. Because I am human. And this is the sort of thing humans, even when they know better, sometimes do.
I am not advocating this behavior. Someone once told me if you can’t be an example then be a warning. So consider yourself warned. I will say I felt provoked and prodded toward that cookie sandwich with a red-hot stick. But who am I kidding? It was my foot on the gas and my voice in the drive-through saying, “You’re all out of cupcakes? Well, I’ll just take a cookie sandwich with peanut butter frosting, thanks.”
All of this came after an epic day. I showed up at an event this morning where I thought I was simply going to be participating. “Come and pray,” they said. “Casual,” they promised. “No big deal,” they demurred.
But when I walked through the door I heard instead, “Oh, there’s our guest author!” I stared, wide-eyed, and thought about backing away slowly, slowly. Then this, “You’ve been told you’re facilitating this, right?” I pinched my arm to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I thought I might faint. I wondered if someone else might be standing behind me, someone more responsible and spiritual and loud who would love to be the on-the-spot-MC for a gathering of strangers. One of the coordinators, noting my discomfort, offered, “I could lead if you want me to.”
I wish I could say I picked the brave way, that I chose to be bold and pulled my shoulders back as I quoted, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But instead I shoved that outline into her hands like it was a hot potato and said, “Have at it.” She looked startled and I realized then it was not a real offer. It was a polite offer.
Now there were two wide-eyed women standing there with a crowd building around us. She looked at me. I looked at her. Who would back down first? The official leader, a very nice man, must have sensed the fear and hormones drifting through the air. He took the paper and said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” At this point I could have gathered my wits and guts and stepped up to the plate. Instead I just said, at the exact same time as the scared silly woman next to me, “Great!”
In spite of me it turned out to be a really beautiful time. One woman attending talked to God in this intimate, gorgeous way that made me want to start all over in prayer kindergarten and learn everything again. She cried tears in front of us, who didn’t know her at all, and I thought about the woman who broke the alabaster jar on the feet of Jesus. She broke herself right there, without shame or hesitation, and I could sense the delight of God in her doing so. By the time we ended I felt breathless and blessed. And I remembered this lesson: I am human and God is God and both of these things are good.
So often the fear of being human makes us hold back. We don’t want to show up at the event because we might freak out right there in front of everyone. We don’t want to take the next step because we might stumble. So we tell ourselves we’ll wait until we’re sure we can handle it. That it will turn out okay. That our hair is in place and that smile is on our face and we can knock ‘em dead. But we serve a God who wants to bring life through us instead. And we will never, ever be ready. He will just go ahead and use us anyway. Doing something a bit badly on the way to doing it well is just part of the package. God told Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT).
Here’s the reality: The only thing that really got hurt in my awkward moment at the prayer event was my pride. And goodness knows anything that takes a sledgehammer to that is a helpful thing.
When I got home this evening I looked at my new pair of dark jeans and saw a glob of peanut butter frosting staring back at me accusingly. I rolled my eyes and headed for the bathroom where I dabbed it off with a wet washcloth. Then I looked in the mirror and said, “We’ll do better next time.”
And you know what?