40 Sets of Eyes
I walked into the building, as I had done every Sunday for 3 months prior...but something felt off. Every Sunday 3 months prior, I walked into a somewhat empty space and overheard a soft, bustling sound in the background and the muffled noise of the band rehearsing on stage. This week, I walked into a room of 40 sets of eyes staring at me. Confused, I looked at the police officer and mouthed, "What happened?" Ordinarily, on Sundays, I get to church before the other volunteers so I can assess what needs to happen and know how to direct volunteers as they come in. This Sunday, I mindlessly arrived after everyone else. When I walked inside and it felt like everyone was staring at me, I was so confused that my first two thoughts were: (1) "Did someone die?", followed quickly by (2) "Did I get fired?" (Is it even possible to be fired as a volunteer? #deepquestionsforGod) Something bad must have happened if everyone else is here so early. But now, all eyes were staring at me as my stroll into the building turned from leisurely to worried to panicked. I very slowly walked up the stairs to where everyone was standing. It was like a movie. Every step I took, I saw more of each person, and they saw more of me...more of my tardiness, more of my embarrassment. Finally, I figured out that I mindlessly showed up late. Even though for the past year, I arrived at 9:00, today I showed up at 9:15. Just 15 minutes later, but late nonetheless. I felt the hot embarrassment rise from my stomach into my chest and make its home on my face. Shame was the filter of everything I saw and felt. How could I be so...so...so DUMB?!
**We briefly interrupt this blog to dive deeper into Priska's issues...** I have this recurring dream, everytime I have an important morning meeting. I always dream that I oversleep (which I have NEVER done before...but you know dreams don't listen to logic), then I'm late, and I spill coffee on myself as I'm speeding down the road, then the cop pulls me over, which makes me more late and ~$250 down for the day. Then I arrive to my super important meeting, coffee on my shirt, frustration on my face, probably a little red-faced and sweaty from my rough morning. And LATE...the adjective I despise the most. I hate that adjective on me. It doesn't match my look. My put-togetherness. My "I-have-everything-under-my-control"-ness. That's how much I hate being late. Back to my morning...
But what I realized at that moment changed my morning. I realized that while my mindlessness was a slight mistake, an even greater error would be to let that molehill turn into a mountain. My mind moved on to this memory: Last week, I felt God telling me to send a certain verse to my dear friend Luisa.
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of LIFE has set you free from the law of sin and death." -Romans 8
At the time, I didn't know why God was telling me to send that verse to her. It's not exactly a simple Psalm of encouragement or anything... Could it be, that I needed to know that verse later in my week, which was all a part of His foresight?
My morning could have been derailed to uselessness, but this verse came to mind, and I declared, "There is no condemnation for me, for I AM IN CHRIST JESUS!"
And I decided to give it ALL to God: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I gave God my good: using whatever gifts He's given to me to glorify Him. I gave Him my bad: being late (my b). And I gave Him my ugly: beating myself up over being a few minutes late accidentally. See, sometimes to my friends I can preach a really, really strong #treatyoself with some of God's goooood good grace. HALLELUJAH! But then to myself, I'm like "Yo...be perfect. Grace is for people who are on time." But if I really stop to scrutinize that idea, it's not grace at all. I realized that morning that if I didn't take all of this to God, I would end up letting satan whisper in my ear all day how dumb I was, and how incompetent that I couldn't even show up on time. But I had work to do. So I kicked satan out of my mind - literally told him to go to hell. And went about my business, with God leading me the rest of the day.
This whole ordeal reminds me of the prodigal son (see Luke 15) and how he tried to recover his fumble by preparing talking points for his dad and bowing his head because of how awful he was. But when his father saw him, he didn't even ask where he had been and what terrible things he had been doing. The Father just embraced him with a hug and threw a party! The father in this story is God, and the wandering son is you and me. If only I could recover so quickly and recognize that God isn't holding a big list over my head of "Priska's Dumb Mistakes". God is never waiting for me to work off my debt of sin in order to be right with Him. He just gives grace...and a hug...and a party!
Later that week, as I pondered what reason there was for all of this, I got a clue. My dear friend Luisa (mentioned earlier) called me, unhappy with her week. She told me how she messed up publicly at work, and how she was embarrassed about it. Maybe it was more than once, but I'm surely not counting. Luisa and I get along so well, in part because we're both Type A over-achievers, so you can imagine how she's feeling by this blunder. As she's telling me this story, I recognize the feeling of shame and embarrassment in her voice. I recognize the same feeling I felt only a few days prior. I was able to share with her my story of being late and then falling into a shame trap when I should have been busy actually doing something productive. For some reason, when someone else responds to your blunder with, "Hey, I'm human, too", it just feels better. I'm convinced that one of the enemy's most overused tricks is to isolate you, to make you feel like you're the only one who makes mistakes. Anyway, by sharing our blunders and how we got over them by God's grace, we drew closer together and we were able to forgive ourselves for the whole being human thing... (If you don't know, I'm kidding.)
Lastly, one other thing struck me as odd. Luisa told me that she had a bad week. I've never heard her say she had a bad day, let alone week. And I had a bad week, too. Was the moon full? Was the earth off tilt? I doubt it. What was in common is that we were both beginning to lead separate Bible studies. And one thing I know - when you're hard at work for the Lord, you are on the enemy's Most Wanted List. That dirtbag wanted to throw us off our game. He wanted us to feel bad about ourselves. But I got news for him... WE ARE IN CHRIST JESUS!!! And ain't nobody got time for the enemy's shame. We are too busy at work for the Lord. If you will, keep us in your prayers. In fact, right now take a moment to pray for your Bible study leaders, church staff and pastors. Pray for the Lord's protection over them. Pray for their minds, their hearts, their health, their families. Pray for me - I'm sooo not beneath begging for prayer! I covet your prayers. Thanks to all of you who pray for me. It means so much more than you know!
With love, PriskaTabitha